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Technology Today - Grant to Expand Course in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Technology Today

Amy Springer, lecturer and chief undergraduate advisor in biochemistry and molecular biology (BMB) at UMass Amherst, and her co-principal investigators have received a five-year $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in colleges and universities across the United States.

The grant funds training and mentorship for educators who provide real-world research opportunities to their students.  

“CUREs can help students to feel personally invested in their scientific studies - they learn how science works and are able to actually contribute to the progress of science,” says Springer. “This can be very important in helping them believe that they, too, can belong in STEM.”

The CUREs program emphasizes support for under-resourced and/or minority populations who are historically underrepresented in STEM fields. Undergraduates engaged in scientific research report a higher likelihood of persistence in STEM and greater sense of independence, says Springer.

In addition to training in research-based learning, faculty will receive resources to develop  research experiences specific to their courses and be connected to a faculty network that focuses on peer mentoring and technical support. The end goal is to provide students with a hands-on experience in BMB techniques, which are applicable to many STEM-related careers.

“We are really excited about this opportunity to expand the network of faculty teaching CUREs,” says Springer. “It is a great community of dedicated teachers and we are eager to support new faculty to adopt research projects in their courses.”  

Springer, who’s active in curriculum development, has collaborated with colleagues from several universities to cultivate resources for undergraduates to carry out protein-focused research. At UMass Amherst, she has helped convert all three biochemistry lab courses (introductory and advanced, for majors and non-majors) to the CUREs format.

Department head Jennifer Normanly says, “BMB faculty have a long-standing commitment to including undergraduates in our research programs. Amy’s leadership in the implementation of the CURE format in our laboratory courses has allowed us to embed authentic research into our required majors curriculum.”

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