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This year we are also offering a Work in Progress Session (WIP). We are modifying the idea from the Life Discovery Conference Share Fair which is "designed for educators to share teaching ideas and resources at any stage of development to receive peer feedback." The WIP session will be held Monday, July 15 at 7:15 pm in the ISC Atrium.

Online journals to view student's internal views of cells and organisms

Denise Ratterman


We are starting a program of having students answer a broad question about cell activities and about plant structure/relation to other organisms to reveal their developing internal view or model. They would answer the same questions three times during the semester. Feedback questions, challenges, or comments would come from a Preceptor who monitors the online journals after each entry. The purpose is to allow students to view their developing ideas, reveal misconceptions and help them steer out of these,  uncover areas that need development and use questions to guide them to think about those areas & support students in their development of models. The use of an online journal may allow us to reach students who typically do not ask questions in lab or come for help in person. This project is supported by the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates (Educational Innovation in Introductory Biology Instruction Grant) and will begin its pilot in 2019-2020 for Bot 130, a class with 10 lab sections and approximately 140 students each semester.

Madison Initiative for Undergraduates

An Open Database for the Biology Lab

Natalie Stringer


Choosing a lab manual for your course is not a trivial task. You could write your own, adopt an off-the shelf option, or search for OER resources to fit your curriculum. Regardless of the cost or source, finding lab content can be difficult. Customization requires time and traditional publishing models are often inflexible.

We are creating a database of OER materials for use in the teaching laboratory. The database is connected to an electronic notebook. The goal is to support the 5Rs of OER (retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute) while supporting instructors in the teaching lab. 

Content in the database will be organized by discipline and topic as well as searchable by keyword. Learning objectives, time requirements, and level of instruction are just a few types of metadata that will be provided. We also hope to share “tips and tricks”, assessment questions, and other instructional materials.    

Lab Archives

Sexy Smells: A case study using preen oil composition of the Dark Eyed Junco

Melissa Haswell


This case study was written and is being tested for use in undergraduate anatomy & physiology courses at Davenport University, and in biochemistry and genomics courses at the University of New Hampshire. This case study is impactful because it not only teaches students the physiology and biochemistry behind pheromone usage in animals, but also provides students the opportunity to do the following: 

  • Explore actual research conducted by women, who are underrepresented in the scientific world. 
  • Use authentic data to conduct bioinformatics comparisons between species. 
  • Apply knowledge they have learned about physiology and anatomy of birds to human physiology for a comparative physiology lesson that is more engaging to the student.

This case is based on the research conducted by Whittaker, D. J., et al., Bird odour predicts reproductive success, Animal Behaviour (2013). The learning outcomes for this project are as follows: 

  1. Use this as a model to teach physiology of sense of smell and nerve cell transmission.
  2. Identify components of olfactory neurons Identify physiology of smell (molecular stimulation of nerve cell transmission) 
    1. Comparative anatomy Introduce endocrine system (reproductive hormones) endocrine vs exocrine gland pheromones → do humans have pheromones? do humans have “breeding seasons” - what does this mean? 
    2. Can you find evidence for this physiological phenomenon in humans? Where potential mate assesses/recognizes breeding status (fertility, health, quality) what are the sex hormones? Physiological function. 
  3. Genomics Identify common genes and compare across species 
  4. Identify biochemical pathways that are shared by different species 

Both transformational change and culture of learning are addressed in this project by using authentic data and an engaging story to teach students about the biochemistry of pheromones (physiology), as well as how animals, including humans, smell pheromones (anatomy & physiology). Engaging students through narratives has been proven to be an effective learning tool because it provides context for students to connect old knowledge with new knowledge, which enhances learning (Kloser, 2016; Dhalstrom, 2014). When used as a teaching tool, situation-based exemplars provide a deeper, more authentic understanding of concepts, which enhance student learning (Kloser, 2016; Dhalstrom, 2014). Dr. Prescott and I are using the premise of this story regarding preen oil to teach different topics. I plan to use this in my anatomy and physiology courses to teach students about the physiology and anatomy of pheromones and the special sense of smell, while she plans to use it in her biochemistry and genomics courses by looking more at the biochemical aspects of the preen oil. From my perspective, this is an integrative case because it uses a story to teach multiple concepts about the human body in a fun, interactive modality. My goal is to use it as a summative assessment to cover two very difficult units in this course. With regard to future application, Dr. Prescott and I hope to publish this case through the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science ( This collection represents a collection of model cases that are peer-reviewed and published for an international audience. 

References: Dahlstrom, M.F. (2014) Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with nonexpert audiences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(Supplement 4). Dahlstrom, M.F., & Ho, S.S. (2012). Ethical considerations using narrative to communicate science. Science Communication, 34(5): 592-617. Kloser, M. (2016). Alternate text types and student outcomes: An experiment comparing traditional textbooks and more epistemologically considerate texts, International Journal of Science Education, 38(16), 2477-2499.

Resource on QUBES | Sexy Smells Case Study Worksheet

Use of Peerwise (open question authoring tool) in the classroom

Sarah Prescott


Peerwise is an open question authoring tool that allows students to create, edit, answer, rank, and comment on multiple choice questions. The web-based tool is free and open to all. Sample accounts will be available for anyone to be a student in one of the classes I have incorporated this into, and to also see the instructor side. I will also share implementation tips and best practices.  

Peer Wise

Using Jupyter Notebooks to introduce Python to a large Introductory Biology lab

Jenny Rahn


I have developed a Jupyter Notebook to introduce Python to students in my Introductory Biology Lab course as a data analysis tool. In my course, students spend several weeks collecting data as part of an ongoing research study aimed at ascertaining the effects of white-tailed deer in our local College Woods. Students are guided through the data analysis after first being introduced to the Jupyter Notebook functionality in a previous lab exercise. I have developed the Jupyter Notebooks to run in the Google Colaboratory environment rather than the Anaconda platform in order to remove the requirement to install large software packages on student computers. Code is provided in incomplete form, requiring students to modify the strings in order to generate appropriate plots and statistical tests depending on the question they select to address. These exercises are designed to expose this large cohort of students to computer coding and hopefully foster an interest in computer science as an area of study.

Ecology project- data analysis and poster preparation

Using students' own data in a course setting

Dmitry Kondrashov


Last year I co-taught the first iteration of the course Fundamentals of Biological Data Analysis at University of Chicago, aimed at students in their final year who have collected data sets and aim to turn them into theses or publications. I will share materials such as R tutorials and summarize the results and student feedback. I welcome suggestions for how to balance teaching fundamental computational and statistical skills with enabling students to explore and analyze their own data sets.

Ecology project- data analysis and poster preparation