Biology Faculty Articles


Creating a Learning Model Where Students Practice the Scientific Process Through Protein Modeling

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FASEB Journal








Based on the CREST (Connecting Researchers, Educators, and STudents) model undergraduate students at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) cooperated in teams through a specially designed Honors Seminar Course titled, “Introduction to Protein Modeling”. This Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) brought together groups of undergraduate students early in their studies to have authentic research and presentation experiences. This course was open to all students in NSU’s Farquhar Honors College regardless of their major, academic level or previous college level experience with science or protein modeling. Out of 15 registered students, seven of them were first semester freshmen, one was a sophomore, three were juniors, and four were seniors. Most of the students were Biology or Behavioral Neuroscience Majors. However, there was one of each of the following four majors: Dance, Exercise and Sport Science, Marine Biology, and Pre-Nursing. The students were divided into five groups of three, each consisting of a mix of freshmen and upper-level students. Here we present the design and results of a course that provided students with early access to a course-based research experience using various protein bioinformatics tools (Jmol, Pymol, Autodoc Vina, and the Protein Data Bank). Students were shown previously completed projects as part of the CREST Program available on the Program’s website: To support CURE sustainability, we used an interdisciplinary team-teaching approach, with distributed leadership and the support of the University’s Honors College in the development of this course. Students worked collaboratively during class meetings to identify a protein molecular story that they wanted to research and describe using molecular modeling tools, including the development of a 3-D model. At the midterm, the student groups shared their progress and received feedback from the faculty and their peers. Students continued to revise their modeling projects and received additional feedback one month later. At the end of the semester each team presented their final projects with components that included a protein model description sheet, poster, and oral presentations. Student projects included molecular stories related to MMP 12, cystic fibrosis transmembrane regulator, marine bacterial laminarinase, sickle cell anemia, and iron acquisition in E. coli related to TonB/TonBox binding. Through interacting with the primary literature, course materials, and using protein modeling tools, students gained an introduction to the scientific process and applied it to better understand molecular mechanisms. During this process, students also learned to explain these processes to themselves and others through constructing presentations and model descriptions. Student learning gains were documented by using the RISC (Research on the Integrated Science Curriculum) Survey.


This is the full abstract presented at the Experimental Biology meeting and is only available in HTML format. There are no additional versions or additional content available for this abstract.

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This work was made possible by funding through the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education (NSF-DUE) grant number 1725940 for the CREST Project.





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