Releasing the “GENI”: integrating authentic microbial genomics research into the classroom through GENI-ACT
The integration of genomics research into the undergraduate biology curriculum provides students with the opportunity to become familiar with bioinformatics tools and answer original research questions. Our purpose with this research project was to upscale the research experience through integration with classroom experience giving students access to authentic research projects. Students annotated 60 predicted ABC genes of Methanothermobacter thermautotrophicus and Methanobacterium sp. SWAN-1, and they were required to present a research poster to demonstrate their understanding of the project. During this research project a number of tests, assessments and surveys were conducted to assess familiarity with technical and conceptual understanding of genome annotation, satisfaction with annotation instruction, gain in bioinformatics research skills, scientific communications skills and increased student interest in research. We found that students gained significant skills in bioinformatics, specifically genome annotation skills and also gained confidence in their abilities to carry out scientific research. As a result of this authentic undergraduate research experience under-represented students were motivated to pursue future careers in STEM fields.