Immersion of Undergraduates in Modern Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research
The overarching goal of this program is to create a culture of biomedical research at UCSB for undergraduates by infusing real research into as many aspects of the undergraduate experience as possible. The undergraduate curriculum includes research-based courses, upper and lower division undergraduate laboratory courses that incorporate real research experiences, and a new undergraduate interdisciplinary summer laboratory course – a “Research Boot Camp.”
Specifically, the lower division Introductory Laboratory course incorporates a new research component, the Large-scale Undergraduate Research Experience (LURE). Each introductory biology student uses RNA interference to knock down one of the 20,000 genes in the roundworm Caenhorabditis elegans to identify genes important for specific aspects of development or physiology. This is true research, as the outcome of each experiment will not be known beforehand, and students will post results to a website available to the worldwide research community. Similarly, upper division laboratory classes include novel, mini research projects and the Summer Research Boot Camp will prepare students to enter into research laboratories at UCSB and elsewhere. These HHMI program components impact thousands of undergraduates. Importantly, these curricular enhancements create research opportunities for undergraduate students. Not only do the courses introduce students to realistic biomedical research, they expose students to faculty and the many interdisciplinary biomedical research endeavors on the campus. The UCSB-HHMI program also provides professional development opportunities for faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars, involving them in the teaching and implementation of these hand-on educational research program components. The UCSB-HHMI program is designed to create an undergraduate biomedical research culture on the UC Santa Barbara campus that will positively influence not only those who go on to become researchers, physicians, and academicians in higher education, but also K-12 teachers and the general populace, our citizen-voters. A citizenry who understands the research process will be better positioned to make wise decisions about how to best meet the global challenges of the 21st Century.