From sickle cell anemia to Huntington’s disease: Gen Bio students participate in information research lab
Everyone agreed that biology students needed to be proficient in information research skills well before their senior seminar. Throughout the summer and fall of 2000, a committee of librarians, biology faculty members and General Biology lab coordinators met to find ways to solve this mutually recognized problem.
The result was a pilot project wherein one laboratory session of the semester in General Biology was dedicated to developing research skills in both literature and scientific databases. Other objectives included providing a collaborative team experience and improving the students’ presentation skills.
This pilot project, conducted in November 2000, required students to answer a series of questions about the genetic disease, sickle cell anemia. Each General Biology section spent one half of a lab period in the Library learning techniques for searching literature databases, such as Expanded Academic Index and PubMed, from the National Library of Medicine.
The students also completed group exercises designed to promote awareness of various types of literature, such as popular press vs. scholarly and primary vs. secondary sources. During the other half of the lab period, they were instructed by biology professors in searching scientific databases, such as OMIM (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man). Two weeks after this lab session the students presented their findings in groups, both orally and in a written abstract form.
By all measures, the pilot project was deemed a success, and the information research lab has been taught each fall semester since. There have been a few modifications, such as moving the lab earlier in the semester to allow students more time before they present. Also, topics have also been expanded from one genetic disease to seven, including cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and achondroplasia, a cause for dwarfism.
The General Biology information literacy program has had a positive impact on everyone involved. The librarians and biology instructors, including faculty and graduate assistants, have developed stronger relationships through their involvement in this endeavor.
And, most importantly, the biology instructors have noted a significant improvement in the quality of the information sources the students use to support their presentations.
Contributed by Teresa Bowden; photography by Anne Ford