Transforming the laboratory exercises into research experiences


Transforming the laboratory exercises into research experiences

At UPR-Cayey we are trying to substitute the traditional recipe-type laboratory exercises with research projects that have the elements of scientific inquiry.  One idea is to identify and define two or three semester-long research projects that are easy to do in terms of cost-effectiveness, materials, etc. Students would work in groups of 4-5 and present their results in a seminar at the end of the semester.  There would be lab meetings, article discussions, etc.

We plan to pilot-test this idea with two lab sections (approx. 16 students each) of General Biology I next year (2013).  Among the challenges we may face are how to scale-up, the nature of the projects, integration with the lecture, and assessment, among others.

Any ideas, comments and suggestions are welcome.  

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Comment by Erin Dolan on January 30, 2014 at 2:05pm

Greetings, Colleagues-

Interested in teaching a CURE? Designing a CURE? Identifying CURE collaborators? Assessing, evaluating, and studying CUREs? Make plans to attend the Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE) Meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, March 31-April 2. 

Registration is now open:

• Space is limited to 125 conferees

• Registration, meals, and lodging onsite will be covered by an NSF grant to CUREnet (, but conferees must arrange and fund their own travel

• There will be poster sessions and 90-minute workshops during the meeting. Once you register for the meeting, you will be sent a confirmation that includes information about how to submit an abstract for a poster or workshop. All conferees are invited to present - topics of interest include:

- Examples and contexts for CUREs (advanced courses, introductory courses, non-major courses, diverse institutions)

- Infrastructure, scaling, and support (institution-wide implementation, distributed or multi-site, data management across sites)

- Assessment and Evaluation (student assessment, program evaluation, research on the design and outcomes of CUREs) 

• More information about keynote speakers and specific workshop sessions will follow. 

Please forward this announcement to colleagues who may be interested in CUREs.

Hope to see you in Cold Spring Harbor!

Erin Dolan (

Comment by Erin Dolan on September 7, 2012 at 4:11pm

Hello all-

I'd like to bring the following resource to your attention - it's called CUREnet for Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences Network ( This is an NSF funded Research Coordination Network for Undergraduate Biology Education. The network brings together people and programs that are integrating research experiences into undergraduate courses (versus the standard apprenticeship style research experience). We are busy populating the site with CURE projects and resources, and we encourage you to submit your CURE so that other instructors can find them and adapt / adopt them for use with your own students. I also encourage you to submit resources, such as assessments, authorship guidelines, etc., that you have found useful in your CURE instruction. Looking forward to learning more about your work!

Comment by Mary Phillips on September 7, 2012 at 2:52pm

I would love to read suggestions from my colleagues. We have over 500 students in our biology for majors course performing labs each week.  Many sections are taught by adjuncts and blended formats. We do not have a dedicated lab space for students to perform research and have access to the lab on their own. Also, students cannot set up a lab and leave it. There simply is not enough space to handle the volume of students. We use a lab manual that incorporates data mining to solve new problems and the use of authentic research data and databases.  This idea seems to be working very well to introduce research concepts. Also, we are infusing bioinformatics into all our courses and lab.  The weekly labs are inquiry based and competency based, but still fairly traditional. Each lab infuses data mining, global issues, and evolution.  Any suggestions for colleges with no lab space for independent research?

Comment by Romi Burks on September 7, 2012 at 1:23pm

We will be working over the next four years as part of an HHMI grant to integrate inquiry-based learning labs into our first year sequence.  Nice to have a community with which to discuss and learn new ideas.

Comment by Joanna Vondrasek on August 26, 2012 at 8:56pm

We do a semester long bean beetle investigation that the students design the protocol for  - it's a guided inquiry so they get the question, have supplies available, and then as a lab group or section agree on a common method and conduct the experiment. We have about 10 Bio 102 sections a semester. The beetles are cheap once you get them established and the only supplies needed are fresh beans and large petri dishes. We also do a yogurt making lab that is investigative (what changes to pH, glucose content, consistency, occur with different starting milk (cow, goat, lactaid, soy, etc)  - within some parameters and limits on supplies, but it's really cheap, and we're able to do multiple sections.

Comment by Martin Zahn on August 26, 2012 at 4:46pm

The only things we do that are close to this are the HHMI Phage Lab (one section) and a tropical ecology course that travels to Central America. With up to 25 freshman lab sections we are not sure how to implement this on a wider basis. Any low cost suggestions would be appreciated.

Comment by Robert L Gannon on July 23, 2012 at 4:03pm

I used the lab manual "Biology Brought to Life" by Handelsman et al. 2002. for my Intro Biology class of about 25 students. This is a great place to start if the manual is still available. We grew a lot of plants and bacteria and it was a lot of fun and easy to do in a semester.

Comment by Kristiann Dougherty on July 23, 2012 at 1:34pm

I have done a research project to look for bacterial infections in insects. I did this with a small group of Bio2 students and it worked well. It seemed to spark their interest. the details are at:

Comment by Catharina Coenen on July 23, 2012 at 12:28pm

Hello everyone.  We (that is biology faculty at Allegheny College) have been teaching an investigative introductory lab course for the past twelve years.  Each section of twenty students rotates through three consecutive, four-week laboratory periods with three different faculty members.  Students work in groups of 3 to 4.  I am attaching a recent syllabus, if you are interested in details.  FSBio201SyllabusSpring2012v3.doc I am also happy to share materials on the specifics of the various modules. The course design imposes a very heavy grading burden on the faculty, but we all love teaching it, because the classroom experience is intensely rewarding for students and faculty.

PULSE Fellow
Comment by David Marcey on July 23, 2012 at 5:18am


It should be possible to upload a file using the paper clip icon in the comment box.

If that still doesn't work, I'd love to see your manuscript.

You can attach it in a email to:



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