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Research-based undergraduate course expands beyond Washington University
Date:11/25/2008

. The students' job is to go in there and parse out the sentences."

Sequence data and annotation results from student work are being submitted to public databases that are used by researchers around the world. So far, one scientific paper based on student research has been published (with students as coauthors); additional papers are expected to follow.

The GEP is one of a few undergraduate programs that are taking on the challenge of working with eukaryotic genomes. These genomes are more complex and orders of magnitude larger than the more commonly studied prokaryotic (for example, bacterial) genomes. The development of a coordinated research effort that pools student contributions across institutions allows the GEP to tackle challenging, large-scale projects.

"It's great in terms of a divide and conquer strategy," says Elgin.

Borrowing from Confucius

To sum up the philosophy of the GEP, Elgin references an ancient Chinese proverb that states, "I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand." In other words, Elgin maintains that students can't truly understand the scientific process until they have conducted their own research.

This assertion is supported by an article recently published in Science (Oct. 31, 2008), in which Elgin and her colleagues present results from an exit survey of students who participated in either the GEP, a course without research, or a summer research experience. The evidence suggests that the GEP provides students with a more comprehensive learning experience than traditional, lecture-based courses. The results also reveal that the GEP course is comparable to a summer research experience in terms of its capacity to prepare students for a career in science.

According to Elgin, the success of the GEP can be partially attributed to students' sense of ownership over their research.

"It makes a huge difference to students
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Contact: Sarah Elgin
selgin@wustl.edu
314-935-5348
Washington University in St. Louis
Source:Eurekalert

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