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  • Created 11 Oct 2018

Kristin Jenkins, BioQUEST

Interdisciplinary biology education: a holistic approach to an intractable problem

Bioinformatics, quantitative biology and other important emerging disciplines like data science are described as interdisciplinary - combining a variety of skills and practices from multiple sources to generate novel approaches to biological problems. Each of these disciplines is a potentially effective route for teaching many core biological concepts, and no biology education would be complete without exposure to these disciplines. However, it is unclear how each of each of these disciplines can receive the appropriate level of attention in an already over-full biology curriculum. How is a faculty member (or department) to incorporate experience with all these important disciplines to prepare students for the 21st Century workforce?

Could extending our interdisciplinary approach to research benefit biology education? Vision and Change provides an overarching guide to what all biology students should know, categorizing this knowledge as core concepts and competencies. These broad categories describe topics and practices required in many disciplines, including bioinformatics and quantitative biology, such as using models and hypothesis testing. Transferring and applying knowledge in different situations is challenging for students, but is a key skill in interdisciplinary sciences. Exposure to multiple disciplines could be leveraged to support both the development of core skills and knowledge and the ability to transfer and apply knowledge in different scenarios.

Such an interdisciplinary approach will require communities of practice that can support collaboration and communication between disciplinary educators. The ability to share resources, provide professional development and exchange ideas on effective pedagogical approaches will reduce barriers to interdisciplinary teaching. The Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education (QUBES) project is an example of this type of community of practice, where bioinformatics and quantitative biology faculty have come together to improve biology education.

Presentation on interdisciplinary biology education at the 2019 Great Lakes Bioinformatics Conference
quantitative biology, interdisciplinary, bioinformatics, biology education, interdisciplinary education, Presentation, Reference material, Abstract, Conference material

William Morgan, College of Wooster

Network for Integrating Bioinformatics into Life Sciences Education (NIBLSE): Recent Activities

The Network for Integrating Bioinformatics into Life Sciences Education (NIBLSE, pronounced “nibbles”) seeks to integrate bioinformatics education into undergraduate life science curricula. To this end, this NSF-funded project has established a network of educators dedicated to this vision, identified barriers to the integration process, developed a suite of community-endorsed, bioinformatics core competencies necessary for today’s life science graduates, and curated a collection of learning resources that address these competencies. Current efforts to foster bioinformatics education in undergraduate life science education include an active incubator system for nurturing learning resources, a QUBES-supported Faculty Mentoring Network for supporting educators integrating bioinformatics, and an initiative to help instructors assess their bioinformatics educational efforts. The 2nd NIBLSE Conference on Implementation and Sustainability in October 2019 will provide a forum for interested bioinformatics educators to consider how these efforts can be further deepened and sustained.

Presentation on NIBLSE at the 2019 Great Lakes Bioinformatics Conference
bioinformatics, NIBLSE, incubators, Presentation, Reference material, Abstract, Conference material

Layla Oesper, Carleton College

Expanding Undergraduate Participation in Computational Biology: Resources and Lessons Learned from a Hands-on Workshop

Computational biology is an exciting and ever-widening interdisciplinary field. Expanding the participation of undergraduate students in this field will help to inspire and train the next generation of scientists necessary to support this growing field. However, students at smaller institutions, such as those focused on undergraduate education, may not have access to faculty or even courses related to computational biology at their home institutions. Providing more opportunities for all undergraduate students to be exposed the wide variety of subfields within computational biology will be important for ensuring these students are included in the pipeline of scientists contributing to this field. To this end, we hosted a computational biology workshop that brought together undergraduate students from three different Midwest liberal arts colleges. The goal of the workshop was to provide an introduction to how computer science can be used to help answer important problems in Biology. A diverse set of six faculty members from different institutions each put together a hands-on module as an introduction to a different area that they taught to the students at the workshop. In this talk, I will discuss the lessons learned from this undergraduate computational biology workshop, and the workshop materials that are freely available to the larger computational biology community.

Presentation on computational biology in undergraduate education at the 2019 Great Lakes Bioinformatics Conference
undergraduate education, computational biology, bioinformatics, Presentation, Reference material, Conference material

Anna Ritz, Reed College

Conference-based Undergraduate Experiences: Lowering the Barrier for Learning about Computational Biology

Computational training is becoming critical for undergraduates who wish to pursue careers in biology. While there are notable exceptions, many small schools (such as primarily undergraduate institutions) do not have the resources or staffing to offer computational biology training within biology departments. Conference attendance can broaden undergraduate participation in computational biology for these resource-limited institutions. Attending computational biology conferences can educate students about computer science applications within biology, empower students with a unique opportunity that few undergraduates obtain, and provide a platform for faculty from other institutions to interact with strong interdisciplinary undergraduates. I argue that this opportunity, which is usually reserved for seniors who contribute to a faculty member's research, should be made available to students in their first few years of college as they explore majors and career paths. I will describe how I integrated conference attendance into an upper-level undergraduate course, show preliminary data assessing the conference experience, and share lessons I learned when helping undergraduates navigate conferences.

Presentation on how attending conferences can enhance computational biology training for undergraduates at the 2019 Great Lakes Bioinformatics Conference
undergraduate education, computational biology, Bioinformatcs, Presentation, Reference material, Conference material

Michael Sierk, Saint Vincent College

NIBLSE Incubators: A community-based model for the development of bioinformatics learning resources

The Network for Integrating Bioinformatics into Life Sciences Education (NIBLSE) is an NSF funded Research Coordination Network that aims to establish bioinformatics as an essential component of undergraduate life sciences education. As part of that effort, the project is working to make existing bioinformatics learning resources more accessible to non-specialists and increase their use across undergraduate biology courses. To this end, NIBLSE has partnered with the Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES) project to develop and implement a novel model, called incubators, for supporting the refinement, publication, and dissemination of high-quality bioinformatics teaching resources such as a lab activities, worksheets, or classroom exercises. The incubators bring together the author of an existing resource with experienced users, novice users, and a managing editor from NIBLSE to discuss how to refine and improve the resource to make it more robust and more applicable in various undergraduate settings. The talk will outline the challenges faced in developing high-quality learning resources and describe how the incubator model addresses several of those challenges. Examples of previous incubators will be presented, and attendees will be shown how to volunteer to participate in an incubator.

NIBLSE Incubators: A community-based model for the development of bioinformatics learning resources

Michael Sierk, Sam S Donovan, Bill Morgan, Hayley Orndorf, Mark A. Pauley, Sabrina Robertson, Elizabeth F Ryder, William Tapprich

Version: 2.0

Presentation on NIBLSE incubators at the 2019 Great Lakes Bioinformatics Conference
bioinformatics, NIBLSE, Bioinformatics Education, incubators, Presentation, Reference material, Abstract, Conference material