Outcomes of a research-driven laboratory and literature course designed to enhance undergraduate contributions to original research


  • Madeline E. Rasche

    Corresponding author
    1. Microbiology and Cell Science Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-0700
    • Microbiology and Cell Science Department, University of Florida, P.O. Box 110700, Gainesville, FL 32611-0700
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  • This work was supported by National Science Foundation Grant MCB-9876212 and by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. This manuscript is Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Journal No. R-09890.


This work describes outcomes of a research-driven advanced microbiology laboratory and literature research course intended to enhance undergraduate preparation for and contributions to original research. The laboratory section was designed to teach fundamental biochemistry and molecular biology techniques in the context of an original research project. Site-directed mutants of a gene of interest were constructed, and the effects of mutations on the resulting enzymes were analyzed. Students were also introduced to the literature surrounding their project, electronic literature databases, and preparation of computer-generated slides for oral presentations. Student progress was evaluated through a laboratory report written as scientific manuscript, an oral presentation, a 10-page written review, and an essay examination. In the semester following the laboratory course, four of the 14 undergraduates joined the host laboratory to continue their projects as individual undergraduate researchers. Quantifiable outcomes of the course and subsequent undergraduate research included i) production of eight new site-directed mutants and preliminary characterization of the corresponding enzymes, ii) training of four individual undergraduate researchers prior to joining the laboratory, iii) publication of a manuscript with results from two undergraduate researchers, and iv) presentation of two posters with undergraduate co-authors at a national meeting. This research-driven approach may be applicable to enhance undergraduate contributions to other original research projects that have defined goals achievable within the timeframe of a single semester.