The opportunity to do authentic, discovery-based research has value for all students, and particularly for the retention of URM students in STEM. With the support of this HHMI award, CU-Boulder's goal is to provide this opportunity for more students, earlier in their undergraduate careers. In their introductory biology courses, CU-Boulder students will do authentic research, conducting screens for anti-cancer drugs and novel antibiotics. This research will be based on the work of CU-Boulder's faculty scientists and students will contribute to the real body of existing scientific data. For example, Dr. Tin Tin Su will involve introductory students in her research using Drosophila melanogaster (p53 and chk1 mutants) as a multicellular animal model to screen for small molecule modulators of anti-cancer agents. Since so many entering students wish to cure cancer, the biomedical relevance of this lab section will be magnetic. Similarly, Dr. Corrie Detweiler will involve introductory students in her research to identify and characterize novel antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a menace that many students are familiar with, so this project will also be engaging and relevant to students. Introductory chemistry students will experience similar benefit with discovery-based research modules developed to explore small molecule drug screens from a chemistry perspective. These complementary introductory laboratories will thus illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of research. Entering URM students will also benefit from a new course that features an overview of CU-Boulder STEM research from 15 departments; and an entry-level course that builds research skills while introducing the vast opportunities in STEM.
HHMI support has made apprentice-based undergraduate research part of the culture at CU-Boulder with impressive outcomes: 1,603 undergraduates have participated in the research of 237 faculty from 15 STEM departments; 92% of these students have earned undergraduate STEM degrees; 85% of supported URM students have graduated including 82% with STEM degrees; 21% have published as co-authors on articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals (e.g., Science), and 47% have earned doctoral degrees. Qualitative expert evaluation has also documented student development in terms of intellectual and professional gains, including gains in critical thinking and communication skills. These student outcomes compel CU-Boulder, with the support of this HHMI award, to continue providing these substantive research experiences. These authentic research experiences for undergraduates are ideally sustained over multiple years, from entry-level to advanced, and provide increasing sophistication in tasks, skills and knowledge that promote their growth as young scientists. By equipping undergraduates with research experiences and skills across disciplines, this HHMI award will increase STEM retention and open doors to exciting STEM careers.