Ohio State is one of 12 new members of the Science Education Alliance, which hopes to change the way students learn about science.
The program will start at OSU this Autumn Quarter, but will only affect a few students.
“In the short term, most of our students will not see this. In the first year it will really be just for 24 students,” said Caroline Breitenberger, the director of Ohio State’s Center for Life Sciences Education. “It will be a very intensive research-oriented lab just for a very small group, just until we find out how it works and we figure out what it is about the experience that can be expanded and applied to a larger group.”
Students in one section of Biology 113 will have this as an alternative to their normal lab exercise, said Chuck Daniels, a professor in the Department of Microbiology.
“This is much more extensive, much more student-involved than a normal lab,” Daniels said. “This is really an opportunity for students to see how (molecular life science) research is done.”
The lab will focus on isolating viruses that infect soil bacteria.
“(Students) will go and collect soil samples and then purify bacteria from those samples,” Breitenberger said.
If the program is successful, it could be expanded.
“Long term, what we would like to do is expand some parts of the program to our entire introductory biology program, for both majors and non-majors,” Breitenberger said.
“We can already see the opportunities to expand the curriculum into other courses in biology and in microbiology,” Daniels said. “I would guess probably the next academic year we will see some of that material and approach being utilized.”
To start out, the program will not cost OSU any extra money.
“The first three years, for that small group of students, it won’t cost Ohio State any supplies or equipment or anything,” Breitenberger said. “There is always personnel time, but we would be teaching those students anyway.”
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization, started the Science Education Alliance in 2007 and universities must apply to join.
“So far, only 40 institutions have been invited to be full partners in this program,” Breitenberger said. “The institutions that participate include everything from Ivy League institutions, like Brown University, to small private colleges.”
The Alliance looks to include a wide range of universities. Daniels said he thought OSU’s size helped get it accepted into the program.
“The (Science Education Alliance) seeks to enhance scientific education and increase the numbers of scientists produced in the United States by serving as a national resource for the development and distribution of new materials and methods to the education community while supporting networks of educators working on similar projects,” according to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute website.