Several professors in the University of North Georgia's College of Science & Mathematics are using new instruments to challenge their students even more, expanding the university's focus on undergraduate research.
Dr. Jeanelle Morgan, assistant professor of biology, has received several pieces of equipment to aid her students in genetics and molecular biology.
In the molecular cell biology class, students work to genetically modify E. coli with a protein from Vibrio fischeri, a small aquatic organism. The goal of the semester-long project is to create E. coli organisms that exhibit the bioluminescent protein from Vibrio fischeri.
This process is achieved through many pieces of equipment, and Morgan's new additions have been improving the process. Several of the new pieces of equipment include: a thermocycler, which causes reactions needed to replicate DNA strands; an ultra-violet (UV) light box and camera with UV filter to help students see the DNA and RNA they are working with; and an electroporator, which is used to force the E. coli to take up the bioluminescent protein.
"This type of hands-on experience is invaluable to our biology majors and prepares them for future projects as they enter the workforce or continue on in graduate school," Morgan said. "Undergraduate research has been shown to be hugely valuable to students: it enhances skills in independent thinking, problem-solving, and communication as well as allows students to engage in the creation of new knowledge and applying that knowledge to real-world problems."
Dr. Evan Lampert, assistant professor of biology, recently received two electronic balances and three water probes that are helping his students to secure a firmer grasp on several research projects.
"We have initiated an effort to highlight high-impact educational practices in our introductory courses; these instruments are important parts of two practices—undergraduate research and collaborative learning," Lampert said. "Using guided-inquiry models, students develop, complete, and present research projects. For instance, Biology 1107 students have been testing the effects of supplementing the diets of animal models with primary nutrients, with the broad goal of examining the accuracy of student-generated data to those in the primary literature."
In another of Lampert's student projects, students are measuring water quality and local stream and wetland diversity. The group is currently developing a website to provide these open-access data to local landowners for management, and also to external researchers and educators for data mining and educational quantitative analysis activities.
"We are currently developing further projects to incorporate high-impact practices into both introductory and upper-level courses," Lampert said.
Lampert and Morgan were both honored by the university with Innovative Teaching Awards for their student projects. The new instruments received by Lampert, Morgan and other professors were purchased with state funds.