RADNOR, Pa. (May 6, 2010) — Cabrini College faculty members Dr. David Dunbar and Dr. Melinda Harrison will help design science lessons and test experiments at the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, this summer.
Dr. Dunbar and Harrison will work through the HHMI’s Science Education Alliance (SEA) to develop college courses in molecular biology and biochemistry focusing on genetics, viruses and proteins. Cabrini College is one of three schools chosen from among 27 that applied to the program.
Drs. Dunbar and Harrison will develop a cellular and molecular biology course in which students examine phage genes and determine which are essential for the virus’s survival. In a biochemistry course, students will purify and characterize the proteins produced by the genes to determine their function.
“We want to incorporate an all-research-based model into the cell, molecular biology and biochemistry laboratories which we teach,” said Dr. Harrison.
The summer research will build on the work of the SEA’s National Genomics Research Initiative. The research-based laboratory course on phage, viruses that infect bacteria cells, provides beginning college students with a research experience to teach them how to approach scientific problems creatively.
“We want to sustain student interest in cutting-edge undergraduate research after their freshmen phage genomics experience,” said Dr. Dunbar. “One way for us to do this is for Dr. Harrison and I to incorporate additional cutting-edge experiments in our upper-level courses building on work they have accomplished their freshmen year.”
Beginning in 2008, the HHMI recruited 44 colleges and universities nationwide to join SEA, which is changing how freshmen learn about science by providing them with an authentic, classroom-based research experience. With the SEA “sabbaticals,” the Cabrini faculty members will join professors from the University of Louisiana, Monroe, and the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey, to help create the next generation of research-based courses that will extend the program’s reach to upperclass students.
The new courses will be evaluated during the next academic year. If promising, the courses will be refined for broad adaption and disseminated by the SEA. Tuajuanda Jordan, director of the SEA, said that some of the classes could be available to the larger science education community by the 2011-2012 academic year.