Glendale Community College
About the college
Established in 1965, Glendale Community College (GCC) provides degree and certificate programs to more than 33,000 students at two campuses in the West Valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area and serves as an educational center for the entire community. GCC offers 44 degree programs, 65 certificate programs, 101 career and technical programs, and over 1,100 courses in a variety of areas of study. Small class sizes (average: 20 students) and an average student to teacher ratio of 18:1 allows personalized instruction and attention to the needs of a diverse student population.
We believe that these projects are good initial steps in implementing the CCURI model. As we move forward with implementation, our aim will be to leverage the existing research and teaching activities of our faculty in Biology and other departments. For many years, programs at GCC such as theBiotechnology Program have incorporated active research into the curriculum through coursework, internships, and independent projects. Our overarching goal working with the CCURI project is to create a structure that takes advantage of our considerable experience with these programs while encouraging greater student and faculty participation in the department and throughout the college. The three projects that we have outlined provide diverse possibilities for participation and hopefully with produce many opportunities for synergy among the established and new learning activities of different programs, courses, faculty, and students.
To achieve these goals we have designed three sub-projects that will be implemented over the next year. Evaluation of these projects will serve as the basis for further development or refinement of our approach as we learn more about how to tailor the CCURI model to the particular needs of our students.
The first project will incorporate case-based learning techniques into the introductory biology curriculum. We will use the approach to case writing presented in the CCURI workshop. The cases will be specifically designed to highlight research activities at GCC and at nearby research institutions. For example, recently students at GCC have been engaged in research through a course in research methods, independent projects, and internships at partnering laboratories. Several of these projects have involved original research on the molecular basis of Alzheimer's disease. We selected a pre-written case from a database of case studies that concerns a study on the effects of beta-amyloid protein fragments on learning in mice. The buildup of this protein is thought to be linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease in humans. We use this case in the first laboratory class in the first semester of a course in introductory biology for science majors. Discussion of the case provides an opportunity to introduce the scientific method and experimental design as well as a chance to inform students about research opportunities at GCC. We plan to develop more cases to complement particular topics in the curriculum (e.g. protein folding and protein production pathways). Whenever possible, each will be focused on recent research activities in the department or partner laboratories.
The second project will be focused on the exploration phase of the CCURI model. In order to provide some exposure to novel research at the early undergraduate level, we will implement a program designed at the Department of Energy's (Undergraduate Research in Microbial Genome Analysis Program)[http://www.jgi.doe.gov/education/genomeannotation.html]. This program provides a set of tools and protocols to allow students with little background in genomics to annotate genes in fully-sequenced microbial genomes. As part of this project, our department has "adopted" a microbe,Deinococcus hopiensis, a microbe that was isolated from soil samples in Arizona. D. hopiensis is particularly interesting due to its close affinity to D. radiodurans, a microbe with highly effective DNA repair mechanisms and subsequent resistance to stressful environmental conditions such as high levels of radiation or extreme dessication. Along with incorporating genome annotation activities in several life science classes including introductory biology and microbiology, we plan to use this microbe in a series of inquiry-based laboratories. The idea for this part of the project is to provide exploratory research activities that extend across classes and provide some sense of "ownership" for the student participants by focusing on our "adopted" microbe that represents an important component of the biodiversity of the desert environment in this part of Arizona.
The third project aims to provide a focused research experience for a smaller number of students with varying previous experience with biology. We plan to meet this goal by establishing a team that will participate in research competitions hosted by the International Genetically Engineered Machine (IGEM) Foundation. This team will include students from all levels from first-year students to those who are ready to transfer to a four-year program. The team will work collaboratively on a project to genetically engineer a bacterium to produce some useful product or perform a useful task. The IGEM Foundation provides a great deal of support with materials and simple protocols that allow even inexperienced students to participate. In addition, there are many different levels and types of participation in the project such that there will be opportunities for students in other scientific and non-scientific programs. The structure of the program demands active collaboration and peer mentoring in order to produce a successful result while encouraging the students to engage in novel and creative research.
In the initial phase of our involvement with the CCURI project, Glendale Community College (GCC) Department of Biology will be implementing programs at three levels of the CCURI model: engage, explore, and integrate.
We have established three major goals for the first phase:
To expose students in introductory biology classes to research opportunities at GCC and at local research institutions through case-based learning modules.
To provide active learning activities in primary research that are integrated across life sciences courses.
To provide novel research opportunities for students at all levels and across disciplines.
The vision statement for the college, "Glendale Community College fosters student success by providing innovative, quality learning experiences for all members of the community", highlights the commitment of the college to constant improvement of educational approaches and activities. The program modeled by CCURI is an excellent opportunity to develop new active learning experiences for our students, especially in the life sciences.