Monday, October 8, 2018

CREDITS Team Science Retreat

BASIL team member Ashley Ringer McDonald from California Polytechnic State University was one of 30 faculty members chosen to attend the CREDITS team science retreat this year.  The Center for Research, Excellence and Diversity In Team Science (CREDITS) (  hosted their annual retreat on September 28-30 at the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center in Lake Arrowhead, CA.  The workshop brings together faculty and administrators from the University of California and California State University systems for a weekend of lectures, workshops, and trainings.  
The workshop featured sessions about the practical aspects of working in teams, navigating power and authority issues on teams, and collective intelligence.  Ashley’s favorite session was about building collective intelligence through diversity.  Research shows that collective intelligence, a factor that measures how much better a team performs relative to the sum of the individual members, is not related to the team members’ individual intelligence, personality traits of the individual members, or group satisfaction, cohesion, or motivation.  Rather, collective intelligence is a function of the social sensitivity of the team members and the communication patterns of the group.  This means that by using techniques such as monitoring the amount of time each team member speaks, limiting interruptions, and creating opportunities for people to contribute after meetings, the collective intelligence of a group can be increased without changing the membership. 
Ashley also really enjoyed participating in The Leadership Challenge at the retreat.  The Leadership Challenge is a specific leadership training which asserts that leadership is not a ability some have and others do not; it is a skill that can be developed.  It teaches that leadership is not about personality, charisma, or style; it is about choices and behaviors.  There are five practices that effective leaders utilize and six behaviors associated with each of those practices.  If a leader wants to improve a particular practice, they need only do the behaviors associated with that practice more frequently. 
The CREDITS retreat was an outstanding opportunity to build team science and leadership skills, and Ashley’s participating will enhance the BASIL group. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A Sabbatical in the Making

Interdisciplinary Collaborative Research – Developing the next generation of collaborative scientists

Rebecca Roberts (Ursinus College) is beginning to prepare for her sabbatical, scheduled for Spring 2018. Science today requires collaboration between researchers from different disciplines.  Roberts aims to improve understanding of the process of training students to be effective collaborators.  Her research will address the hypothesis that undergraduate students can become interdisciplinary collaborative scientists in a laboratory course, given proper opportunities and challenges.  To this end, she will use the BASIL framework.  The BASIL project tests the hypothesis that undergraduate students can characterize proteins of unknown function as a central theme of their biochemistry teaching laboratory.  This National Science Foundation-funded collaborative project across seven campuses is aimed at developing and validating a one-semester, novel Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) biochemistry laboratory curriculum that equips students with not only the technical skills but some of the thinking and problem-solving skills that characterize scientists. At Ursinus, Roberts has expanded this project to model collaborative interdisciplinary research by incorporating the CURE into two separate courses that come together throughout the semester to inform the students' work in the complementary courses.  Interdisciplinary collaborations are frequently essential to answer multi-faceted questions, yet they present many challenges such as understanding the information, methodologies, and norms of another field and effective communication among team members.  Roberts explains that we “must begin to provide young scientists with the skills necessary for success in a validated pedagogy as the call for more interdisciplinary science expands”. She will be carrying out the research in collaboration with Trevor Anderson, an educational researcher in the Division of Chemical Education of the Department of Chemistry at Purdue University, and Paul Craig, Professor of Biochemistry and Bioinformatics and Head of the School of Chemistry & Materials Science at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Julia Koeppe, Mike Pikaart and Paul Craig having dinner at Mike's house in Holland, MI. They spent July 9-11 on the campus of Hope College working on BASIL modules for CourseSource and were joined over BlueJeans by Ashley Ringer McDonald and Stefan Irby.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Sharing BASIL with Other Campuses

We are very interested in sharing BASIL and seeing if this approach works on other campuses. We have several approaches to sharing. The first is this blog and the links on the blog to the BASIL modules. We also present our experiences at national conferences of the American Chemical Society, the American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and the Biophysical Society.

We also will be publishing articles about our experiences. To date, we have one publication in print, one in press and one in the submission process. Here is the link to our article that was published in the September/October issue of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, volume 45, issue 5, pp. 426-436:

A survey on faculty perspectives on the transition to a biochemistry course-based undergraduate research experience laboratory. 

Two of the BASIL team members are planning sabbaticals that will include work on this project and may include visits to other BASIL campuses. As a group we plan to welcome interested faculty members to have short-term (spring break) or longer term visits to our campuses to witness the BASIL project first hand. Please email me at paul dot craig at rit dot edu if this interests you.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Biochemists in Tampa (Mike Pikaart)

July may be off-season for travel to Florida, but the biochemistry was definitely timely at the University of Tampa for the 2017 "Transforming Undergraduate Education in the Molecular Life Sciences" semiannual meeting organized by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology July 20-23.

I attended in order to network with fellow biochemists, learn some helpful tips and ideas for teaching, and present the current work on our BASIL project in a talk entitled "CURES: Building communities to support and sustain biochemistry research in the teaching laboratory."  I had the privilege of sharing the platform with Dr. Joe Provost of the University of San Diego, who described the work of a group of biochemists building a lab CURE on malate dehydrogenase - and had a lot of fun sharing similar challenges and joys involved in working collaboratively across multiple institutions.  Collaborative CUREs are a lot of work, but bring rich rewards in terms of student learning and, as it turns out, faculty professional development.

Along with talking CUREs, conferees learned about effective textbook use, assessment techniques, funding opportunities, and effective ways to engage students in biochemistry at institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges and community colleges to large research universities.  And - we did get to enjoy some great Cuban food in Tampa's historic Ybor City.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

AMR Boot Camp at Rutgers

Benzyl penicillin bound to the New Delhi
β-lactamase. Image based on PDB entry 4eyf.
Twelve students and four faculty members from the BASIL project attended the Mechanisms of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) Boot Camp at the Center for Integrated Proteomics Research at Rutgers University from June 19-23, 2007. The students worked in teams to study enzymes that modify antibiotics to inactivate them:
  • four Ambler classes of β-lactamases
  • three classes of enzymes that modify aminoglycosides 
One team focused on resistance to vancomycin and another team worked with polymixin resistance.

There was a strong structural focus throughout the Boot Camp. Students used the Protein Data Bank website to find literature and related links from other web sites and to compare the proteins they were studying with other sequences and structures on the PDB. They also learned to work with UCSF Chimera to visualize the interactions between enzymes, antibiotics and other small molecules, as seen in the figure above. 

They also studied strategies for overcoming antimicrobial resistance, including inactivation of the enzymes that modify the antibiotics and development of new antibiotics.

Each day also included talks from leading researchers in the AMR, time working in teams and practice for the concluding presentations on Friday morning, June 23.