The Dynamic Genome Program: A Model for Bringing the Excitement of Authentic Research into Foundational Laboratory Courses
Susan Wessler is Distinguished Professor of Genetics and the Neil and Rochelle Campbell Presidential Chair for Innovation in Science Education at the University of California Riverside. In 2011, she was elected Home Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman to hold this position in the 150-year history of the Academy. She is a molecular geneticist known for her contributions to the field of transposon biology, specifically on the roles of plant transposable elements in gene and genome evolution. Wessler has contributed extensively to educational initiatives, including co-authorship of the genetics textbook, Introduction to Genetic Analysis. As a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor (2006), she adapted her research program for the classroom by developing the Dynamic Genome Courses where incoming freshman can experience the excitement of scientific discovery.
Abstract: The University of California, Riverside (UCR) is one of the most diverse research universities in the country. More than half of the 5,000 students in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) are supported by Pell grants, are members of underrepresented groups, and are first-generation college students. To improve student persistence in STEM, CNAS has focused on two experiential interventions for first-year students: (1) Learning Communities, designed to engage groups of 24 students with faculty, academic advisors and near-peer mentors, and (2) the Dynamic Genome course, an authentic research experience where UCR research faculty take ownership of a section and bring the excitement of their research labs to the classroom. The Dynamic Genome course is an alternative to the traditional Intro Bio Lab where learning communities are randomly assigned to one lab experience or the other.