A National Science Foundation grant will include Southern Utah University students in a nationwide collaboration aimed at training future biologists to be scientists through an interdisciplinary and integrative learning experience. SUU’s biology program will receive $113,000 over the next five years, funding new laboratory equipment to train students in lab skills and improving analysis accuracy.
Dr. Roger Gold, an SUU biology professor, collaborated on the project with Rupa Iyer, principal investigator on the grant and founding director of the biotechnology program and the University of Houston College of Technology. The full grant will spread $2.1 million to five colleges and universities around the country, all to implement the key components of the UH biotech program.
“Over the years, I have worked with Dr. Iyer in the development and testing of the various aspects of these instructional modules,” said Gold. “When I joined SUU last year, it seemed natural to integrate these ideas into our classes to give our students the high-quality research experience that our future scientists and innovators will need for success in their careers.”
The grant is named “From Discovery to Market — Integrating Interdisciplinary Skills through a Collaborative Research based Lab Curriculum.” Gold will integrate the microbiology research into his general microbiology laboratory courses.
Students will carry out actual scientific research by collecting soil samples and processing them for bacterial strains, logging the results on a map. They will be given the opportunity to mine the growing dataset to analyze trends and to draw conclusions. Gold’s students will then write papers and give reports to communicate their findings. The expanded database they are contributing to will provide a platform for national and global research collaborations between students, faculty, governmental agencies, and biotech companies.
“The instructional program funded by this grant will help improve the process of becoming scientists because it allows students to engage in the discovery process from start to finish,” said Gold. “By engaging in the actual process of discovery, students will learn the skills that they need to become successful scientific researchers.”
Besides the benefits to current microbiology students, access to this nationwide database, which has the potential to be multidisciplinary, will create research opportunities to all biology majors. Interested students from across campus, including computer science and mathematics majors, will be able to gain access to the data for the purpose of analyzing trends and making discoveries that go far beyond the scope of the microbiology laboratory.