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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Interdisciplinary laboratory course facilitating knowledge integration, mutualistic teaming, and original discovery

  • Author(s): Full, RJ
  • Dudley, R
  • Koehl, MAR
  • Libby, T
  • Schwab, C
  • et al.

© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. All rights reserved. Experiencing the thrill of an original scientific discovery can be transformative to students unsure about becoming a scientist, yet few courses offer authentic research experiences. Increasingly, cutting-edge discoveries require an interdisciplinary approach not offered in current departmental-based courses. Here, we describe a one-semester, learning laboratory course on organismal biomechanics offered at our large research university that enables interdisciplinary teams of students from biology and engineering to grow intellectually, collaborate effectively, and make original discoveries. To attain this goal, we avoid traditional "cookbook" laboratories by training 20 students to use a dozen research stations. Teams of five students rotate to a new station each week where a professor, graduate student, and/or team member assists in the use of equipment, guides students through stages of critical thinking, encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, and moves them toward authentic discovery. Weekly discussion sections that involve the entire class offer exchange of discipline-specific knowledge, advice on experimental design, methods of collecting and analyzing data, a statistics primer, and best practices for writing and presenting scientific papers. The building of skills in concert with weekly guided inquiry facilitates original discovery via a final research project that can be presented at a national meeting or published in a scientific journal.

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