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Poster Session

The Biology Leadership Conference includes a poster session, held on Saturday evening. The poster session is an excellent opportunity to share ideas, methods, and innovations developed on your home campus with your colleagues at the conference. Participants are encouraged to submit poster session abstracts relating to the the overall theme of improving teaching and learning in the majors' course.

Abstracts (150-200 words in length) must be submitted to Robin Heyden by March 22, 2024

Your poster can consist of an image, a PDF, and/or a short video explaining your work. Poster boards (4' x 6') and thumbtacks will be provided. All posters will be on display for the entire conference.

Sample Poster Abstracts From Previous Years

Aakanksha Angra

Georgia State University

Infusing an introductory biology lecture with critical thinking and quantitative reasoning activities.

Critical thinking and quantitative reasoning are important skills for developing science students and are important career readiness competencies. While there have been many publications focused on critical thinking and quantitative reasoning, there exists a limited amount of knowledge on implementing these skills in a large introductory biology lecture course, without sacrificing time away from the content. In this study, we elaborate on how we: infused our introductory biology lecture with career skills and developed homework modules.  We will also share preliminary findings from student surveys taken at the beginning and end of the semester on their STEM career awareness and their scores on these critical thinking modules. Our study also connects to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) competencies because it covers critical thinking, problem-solving, oral and written communication, teamwork and collaboration, leadership, professionalism and work ethic, career management, and global and multicultural fluency.


Michael Black

California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo

Corona Corner: Let’s Talk About Viruses!


Jennifer Bricken and Melissa Csikari


Collaborate with HHMI BioInteractive to move science education forward.

HHMI BioInteractive offers free teaching resources and professional development workshops to help introductory biology instructors engage students and use evidence-based strategies in their teaching to help students build science skills and deepen conceptual understanding. You can collaborate in these efforts by co-organizing and hosting a workshop on your own campus, by participating in our assessment initiative, or by authoring and reviewing educational materials for the BioInteractive website. Other opportunities involve publishing implementation and modification ideas, and getting involved in professional communities facilitated by BioInteractive, such as BioQUEST/QUBES faculty mentoring networks.


Robin Bulleri

Carrboro High School

Assessing student understanding and misconceptions with scaffolded free response questions in AP Biology.

It is a challenge to get students to write clearly and effectively. The AP Biology exam requires students to construct written responses to a series of prompts. Prompts may include experimental data, diagrams, and/or comparison matrices. In my classes, I use scaffolded free-response prompts in order to build my students’ writing skills and confidence. These written responses are peer reviewed and revised as part of the iterative learning cycle. Anecdotal data from class grades and AP exam scores suggest that increased focus on writing and peer review has a positive impact on student learning. 


Stefanie Renee DeVito

University of Delaware

Designing a podcast project to enhance students communication skills.

Traditional summative assessments in freshman introductory labs typically focus on evaluating students' ability to communicate science to other scientists. While communication to other scientists is important, we also wanted students to learn how to communicate science to a general audience. Our podcast science communication project was designed to compliment scientific posters in our lab curriculum in integrated biology and chemistry by introducing students to the significance and skills required to communicate science to the general public. In our podcast project, students are introduced to the fundamentals of science communication through a partnership with the Delaware Museum of Natural History. Students then research a topic or problem of interest adjacent to their inquiry-based lab project, and in groups of three they script a podcast segment that presents the current science to a general audience. Student feedback indicates that they enjoy having autonomy over the topic and style of their podcast. We found that student confidence in their science communication skills to both a general audience and other scientists increased throughout the course of the semester.

Gokhan Hacisalihoglu

Florida A&M University

Promoting undergraduate student success and intersections with active learning, grit, growth mindset factors.

This study examines how non-cognitive traits independently and interactively predict the learning success of undergraduate STEM students.The course variables focus on the gain of knowledge, critical thinking skills, student grit, and growth mindset. Quantitative data was collected after one semester from first-year students attending the college for the first time in fall. Pre-and post-test levels of grit and growth mindset were measured by Grit Scale and Mindset Test, respectfully. The purpose of this study was to determine the short-term and long-term effects of college learning strategies on student success in Florida. The results demonstrate that Growth Mindset is a significant predictor of UG success. The current status of this project will be presented including the further research results.


Susan Hengeveld

Indiana University

Utilizing a strong visual example to teach abstract concepts.

Because of their inherent abstractness, evolutionary concepts can be difficult for students to grasp.  Through the use of HHMI’s video “The Origin of Species: Lizards in an Evolutionary Tree,” students are exposed to multiple evolutionary and ecological concepts. After viewing and discussing the video in class, students (in small groups) complete a hands-on activity involving the comparison of ecomorphs with geographic distribution of lizards on a Caribbean archipelago, thereby touching on the concepts of micro- and macroevolution and phylogenies. Building on students’ exposure to anole lizards from the video and group activity, I discuss adaptive radiation, selective pressures, interspecific interactions, and resource partitioning.  By having a unifying example, I believe it is possible for students to gain a deeper understanding of the underlying concepts. Furthermore, when I introduce another example, it is possible to compare and contrast it to the lizard example, allowing a discussion on the similarities and differences across organisms as well as evolutionary and ecological situations. I have found that presenting material in this manner has facilitated students’ use of higher-order-level thinking skills to correctly answer both short-answer and multiple-choice questions on the topics. 


Katie Johnson

Collin College

From the Classroom to the Real World: the significance of teaching students how biology applies to their everyday lives through service learning.

When teaching biology, students may often wonder “why is this important?” or “when will I ever use this information?” As instructors we try to provide real world applications of the biology content during lecture and with assignments. Service Learning provides another, more tangible method of connecting the biology concepts learned in class to the real world and their everyday lives outside of the classroom. Service learning requires community service or volunteer work with community partners or organizations outside of the classroom. Volunteer projects can connect the course material to the real world and demonstrate how important and relevant the information covered in class actually is. More importantly, service learning encourages students to get involved with the community and think outside of themselves, truly teaching social responsibility as well as personal responsibility in addition to biology content. 

Kathryn Jones

Howard Community College

Development of an elective freshman undergraduate research course at a community college.

Participation in undergraduate research has been associated with increased engagement and retention in the sciences, particularly for underrepresented minority and women students. We recently developed an elective, one-credit freshman course with the goal of allowing students to gain research experience and to become familiar with science process skills. While one objective of this course was to provide students with an opportunity to prepare for research opportunities at our college, it was developed to be suitable for any student interested in learning about scientific inquiry. Class time in this three-hour-per-week stand-alone course is roughly equally divided between guided inquiry laboratories and class active learning activities focused on topics including experimental design, reading primary literature, and ethics in science. 


Kim Lackey

University of Alabama

Bama Biology Bootcamp.

Bama Biology Bootcamp (B³) is a one-week intensive program for incoming Biological Sciences majors and other freshmen enrolled in introductory biology courses. Mirrored on LSU’s BIOS program, the University of Alabama has offered the camp for 3 summers. B3 is designed to help first year college students make a successful transition from the expectations of high school to those of college, setting the stage for a great college experience. Students are exposed to academic support services around campus and academic class expectations.They work together in small groups mentored to learn study and time management skills that are transferable across courses. B³ students meet Biological Sciences faculty, graduate and undergraduate students that serve as small group mentors (selected from past boot camp participants). In addition, students participate in a laboratory, campus and laboratory tours, and ice breakers. Preliminary data indicates B3 students are more successful than non-B3 participants. B3 staff have faced many challenges including financial, logistical and competition from other camps, however we continue to tweak the camp to become leaders in University initiatives such as increasing student retention rates.  


Melissa McCartney

With Yessica Cabrera, Ruben Castellano, Kassandra Concepcion, Mainlyng Duenas, Valery Mardini, Laura Moralejo, Shagayeg Mousavi, Enza Russoniello, Kyriaki Chatzikyriakidou

Florida International University

Beyond office hours: what happens when students and professors meet to discuss research?

Engaging students in the process of research has become a key emphasis in science education. However, not all institutions have the resources to provide these experiences, and, even when they do, the demand far exceeds supply.  “Undergraduates as Annotators” (UAA) aims to emulate the more traditional immersion research models by engaging students with research taking place within their own department. First, students deconstruct a research paper published by a faculty member in the department (biological sciences). Next, students meet with the faculty member to have conversations within the traditional scientific discourse, a practice that further develops students’ understanding of the scientific community. The two phases of UAA place students in a research mindset by having students work through the data and results of a research project and then by engaging students in an authentic conversation with a member of their own scientific community. Our data shows an increase in student’s sense of belonging within the biology department and an increased self-efficacy in reading research papers.  We also uncovered common themes that take place across each student-author interview, including authors giving advice to young scientists, both author-led and student-led critical thinking, and scientific discourse around experimental design included in the research paper. 


Randy Phillis

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Putting it all together:  Delivering a path for success that stretches from the college acceptance letter through upper division coursework.

At UMass Amherst, we’ve developed a series of programs and supports designed to help students succeed in lower division life science coursework, adjust to the social and cultural norms of university life, gain access to research opportunities on and off campus and develop a sense of identity and inclusion as a member of the scientific community on campus and beyond. BioPrep is an online prep course with core content and quizzing tools to help students refresh, or become familiar with the content of the first semester Intro Bio course. BIOS (Biology Intensive Orientation Session) is a summer bridge program modeled after the very successful program at LSU, developed by Bill and Sheri Wischusen, designed to help students transition not only into Intro Bio, but into university life. Redesigned Intro Bio engages the standard introductory biology curriculum in an active-learning, problem solving format that encourages students to view life sciences as a discipline of figuring out problems in science rather than remembering the facts discovered by others. BioPioneers is a residential academic program for 1st generation students enrolled in Intro Bio that helps them develop community and learn the hidden curriculum that continuing generation students commonly know. SEA-PHAGES is a CURE that involves a wet-bench phage discovery and bioinformatics course sequence developed by Graham Hatfull at University of Pittsburgh that includes first-year students in a national research program to help students develop a sense of belonging in the scientific community. This program is replacing our traditional Intro Lab course.   Intro Group is a weekly mutual mentoring group of 13 instructors who teach in the lower division curriculum. It is designed to help share best practices and provide mutual support for the faculty challenged with the daunting task of bringing thousands of first and second year students up to speed for advanced work. This sequence provides a “cradle to graduation” progression of support for students that helps optimize chances for student success.   


2019 Catalytic Grant Winner

Elena Pravosudova (with Pamela Sandstrom)

University of Nevada, Reno

Jonathan Reddick-Lau (with Laura Briggs)

Truckee Meadows Community College

Peer Instruction, Active Learning, and Building a Learning Community in a Majors Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology Course.

With a 35% D/W/F rate, Introductory Cell and Molecular Biology (BIOL 190) is a gateway course that has been a barrier to students continuing their biology education and achieving their goals at Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC). In 2008, colleagues at the University of Nevada Reno (UNR) made similar observations about their majors’ biology students’ success rates. In response, UNR redesigned their BIOL 190 course to include active learning components, such as (1) online activities and video lectures so that students come to class prepared and engaged, (2) two fifty-minute face-to-face lectures, and (3) a fifty-minute peer-led discussion group, each week. In Spring 2019, colleagues at UNR and TMCC teamed up to bring the success observed in UNR’s reorganized majors’ biology course to TMCC. In Fall of 2019 TMCC introduced optional discussion groups to BIOL 190 students, while UNR peer mentors provided feedback. In Spring of 2020, TMCC started a mandatory discussion group program. The instructors and peer leaders at the two institutions are working together, holding weekly briefings and monthly mentor feedback meetings. The fundamental goals of this project are to (1) continue improving student retention and success in BIOL 190 both at TMCC and UNR, (2) provide students at TMCC with rich teaching and mentoring opportunities, (3) build a mutualistic learning community between TMCC and UNR. 


Kim Quillin

Salisbury University

A ‘Vision and Change’ assessment demo for faculty development and student practice.

The Department of Biological Sciences at Salisbury University in Maryland is aligning its curriculum to the ‘Vision and Change’ Core Concepts and Competencies (AAAS, 2011). As one of many steps in this multi-year effort, we met in several work sessions to develop a set of assessment questions that demonstrates all 30 Concept + Competency pairings, such as ‘Evolution + Process of Science’ and ‘Systems + Quantitative Reasoning’. We wrote the questions at the introductory biology level and focused them on a case study (coffee and climate change) to constrain the scope. We then compiled the questions in a Powerpoint file using a 5´6 matrix of Concepts and Competencies as a home page: Links in each square of the matrix take the viewer directly to the appropriate question, then sample answer, then back to the matrix. While originally intended for faculty development, we also piloted this tool with introductory biology students in the classroom as a study strategy for the final exam. I will present the first draft of the tool at the BLC and welcome feedback and discussion.


2018 Catalytic Grant Winner

Erin E. Shortlidge 

with Brie Tripp, Sophia Voronoff, Analee Pham

Portland State University

Interdisciplinary Science Rubric (IDSR):  An assessment tool to Measure students’ ability to think across disciplinary boundaries.

Over the past few decades, a surge of investment in interdisciplinary sciences that blur the borders of traditional research have emerged. As complex social, environmental, and health-related issues continue to rise, so do calls to train future scientists in the interdisciplinary skills needed to address these problems. Such mandates such as Vision and Change (2011) highlight the need for undergraduate biology students to “tap into the interdisciplinary nature of science”. However, instruments producing valid data, assessing this competency are sparse. Using an Interdisciplinary Science Framework, and results from prior work, we aimed to develop a rubric by which to assess students’ understanding of interdisciplinarity across STEM and non-STEM disciplines. To assess undergraduates’ interdisciplinary thinking, essay assignments were administered to 108 students in four, upper division courses across three research-intensive universities. The essay prompt asked students to address a complex, real-world issue related to content covered their courses. We developed and iteratively revised an interdisciplinary rubric that was used to score student essays. Evidence for reliability of the rubric categories was examined by obtaining interrater reliability with three instructors of record on 20% of essays (0.69, Cohen’s kappa). We established response-process validity through semi-structured faculty interviews to gain expert feedback on the appropriateness of the categories included the rubric (n=29).To test if the rubric categories fully captured students’ interdisciplinary science thinking, we conducted think-aloud interviews with a subset of students who had completed the essay assignment (n = 22) and compared their essays with their interviews. Interviews were coded to consensus by two researchers using thematic analysis. Here, we present a valid and reliable instrument, the Interdisciplinary Science Rubric (IDSR) which will allow instructors to measure if undergraduate science students are meeting calls for ‘tapping into the interdisciplinary nature of science’.

Monica Togna

Mary Ann Comunale1, Monica Togna1 , Brian Wigdahl1, Carla Brown2 and Sandra Urdanta-Hartmann 1 

Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, USA    2 Game Dr Ltd, UK 

Evaluating the digital game CD4 Hunter™ and importance to the iterative development process. 

We are currently developing a suite of digital mini-games with the aim of supplementing instructional materials with a visual and active learning experience. The subject of our first mini-game is HIV replication, is a topic that is universally taught in Biology, Microbiology and Immunology higher education programs. Our game, CD4 Hunter™ was developed to be an engaging and fun tool to teach specific learning objectives that focuses on binding and attachment of HIV to T-cells on the molecular level. Game development is an iterative process, therefore, following the development of our first prototype we have conducted research in an undergraduate student population that are enrolled in biology and biomedical programs. Using a mixed-methods study design, we measured the extent to which CD4 Hunter was meeting predetermined learning objectives in a fun and engaging way. Secondly, we conducted research to gain an in-depth understanding of the games targeted student population by examining their perceptions of DGBL for higher education, and if personal digital game playing habits or gender affected learning outcome. Evaluation design strategies will be discussed and results presented.


Bill and Sheri Wischusen

Louisiana State University

A one-week freshman boot camp that decreases student attrition rates by more than 10%.

The loss (attrition) of students from the undergraduate STEM Pipeline has been a major concern in STEM education for over 30 years (Berryman 1983, Alper 1993, Seymour & Hewitt 1997). While students change majors for many reasons, the attrition of college students from STEM majors is strongly linked to their experiences and success in introductory courses. This is especially true for students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM professions.The Biology Intensive Orientation for Students (BIOS) bridge program, a five-day, pre-freshman program at LSU, has consistently contributed to an increase in the success of students in introductory biology, reduced the attrition of students from this major and increased four-year graduation rates. In addition to these overall gains, this program has led to specific gains for underrepresented groups – ethnic, socio-economic and first-generation college. The measurable positive outcomes, as well as the compressed nature of the program (5 days), have contributed to the successful replication of the BIOS Model at over 20 colleges and universities across the U.S.


Min Zhong

Auburn University

Transformative use of virtual reality in project-based learning of introductory biology course.

Project-based learning (PBL) is an active learning approach that enables students to conduct authentic research, integrate theory, and apply knowledge. Studies have shown that PBL can not only promote their skills of reading, writing, communication, collaboration, synthesis, and evaluation, but also enhance long-term retention in the STEM field. However, incorporating PBL into the lower-level science core courses has been challenging due to the large class size. In this study, a semester-long curiosity-driven project is carried out in the introductory biology course in the form of a scientific research poster. Preliminary data has demonstrated a positive impact on student outcomes and satisfaction, including a considerable increase in science intrinsic motivation and attitude. An innovative instructional platform, the Virtual Exhibition Hall (VEH) was developed and incorporated into PBL in both face-to-face and online classes. The utilization of the VEH is proposed to overcome the limitations of project exhibition and interaction due to the large class size. A SoTL research project is being involved to examine the effectiveness of PBL in the science core course and to assess the use of VEH in PBL.

Jeff Carmichael
University of North Dakota
Collaborative Learning: Student Perceptions and Performance
Collaborative learning has become a mainstream mode of instruction in introductory STEM courses and beyond. Interpersonal dynamics can have a major impact on the student learning experience and, ultimately, teams should be constructed so as to maximize the learning for all students. Instructors may construct teams by random assignment, by allowing students to self-select their teammates, or by more explicit criteria (such as distributing the likely high achievers evenly across all teams or equally distributing students based on gender, age, or other factors). This study presents findings on student performance and perceptions of collaborative learning in large-enrollment introductory biology courses taught in a SCALE-UP (student-centered active learning environment for undergraduate programs) classroom based on varied team frameworks. 

Jamie Jensen
Brigham Young University
Undergraduate Students Demonstrate Common False Scientific Reasoning Strategies
American education is failing to fill the growing demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates. The lack of critical reasoning skills may be a causal factor in student attrition from STEM majors. Our objective in this study was to discover and describe common false strategies used by undergraduate students during the scientific reasoning process. We describe each strategy and offer illustrative examples from student responses. We hope that this research leads to targeted areas for instruction that can lead to better performance, greater academic self-confidence, and increased retention in STEM degrees.​

Jeffrey T. Olimpo
The University of Texas at El Paso 
Assessing Students’ Experimental Design Approaches in CURE and Non-CURE Contexts in the Biological Sciences
with David Esparza, and Haidar Ahmed 
While recent studies in the bioeducation literature have capitalized upon the mediating influence of course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) on cognitive and non-cognitive student outcomes, it remains unclear whether undergraduate students exhibit explicit preferences when designing scientific experiments, and, if so, for what reasons. Furthermore, the extent to which experimental design preferences are similar or dissimilar between students enrolled in CURE vs. non-CURE courses requires examination. To address these concerns, we administered the Expanded Experimental Design Ability Tool (E-EDAT) in pre-/post-semester format to students enrolled in either the traditional (n = 60) or CURE (n = 47) sections of an introductory cell and molecular biology laboratory course at our university. Experimental design approach (e.g., treatment vs. control) was assessed using a rubric developed in-house expressly for that purpose. A subset of individuals from both the CURE and non-CURE cohorts (n = 25) was likewise invited to take part in a brief, semi-structured interview at the end of the term to provide a more detailed account of their experimental design choices and the potential “evolution” of these choices over time. Chi-square analyses demonstrated that students in both cohorts exhibited a preference for the “control vs. treatment” design at the start of the term (p < 0.005 for all analyses); furthermore, this remained the predominant approach used by individuals in both conditions at the end of the course. Descriptive interpretive analyses of interview data reveal that this is likely due to how the scientific method had been conceptualized in students’ prior coursework or in the media, lack of knowledge regarding alternate design strategies, and personal experience.

2017 Catalytic Grant Winner
Rebecca Orr, Collin College and Ruth Buskirk, University of Texas, Austin
Active Learning Modules Integrating Quantitative Skills and Biological Concepts
The 2009 Vision & Change document and subsequent reports emphasize the ability to use quantitative reasoning and the application of quantitative approaches as important competencies. Quantitative skills should not be taught as "add-on" unit when teaching biology, but integrated into teaching fundamental concepts so that students understand the inherent interplay between biological sciences and statistical methods. We developed four content modules whose stated learning goals are to train students to ask questions and formulate hypotheses, to apply quantitative methods and understand the utility of specific statistical tests, and to evaluate data sets to answer their questions. These were developed as active learning modules for implementation during lecture time. In general, we found students were actively engaged in the quantitative activities and simultaneously mastered the biology content. This poster will highlight the topics we selected and will share the challenges and lessons we learned by class testing them in classes that differed in size and general student ability.


Sam Donovan

University of Pittsburgh

QUBES: An education gateway for professional development, OER sharing, and project support

The Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education & Synthesis (QUBES) project has adopted a “scientific gateways” model to accelerate undergraduate biology education reform. As such, QUBES provides an accessible and integrated cyberinfrastructure that makes it possible to coordinate and streamline the work of a diverse and distributed community of biology educators. The QUBES services include an online professional development model (faculty mentoring networks – FMNs), an open educational resources publication and versioning platform, diverse types of community hosting, workshop support, and access to cloud-based computational resources. The integration of these functionalities within a single gateway provides important opportunities for both individual faculty and education projects to engage with the professional community and amplify their scholarship. We argue that professional participation through a scientific gateway reflects a more robust and responsive set of strategies for addressing the dynamic opportunities and challenges presented by undergraduate STEM education.

2018 CG Winner

Erin E. Shortlidge

Portland State University

Evaluating undergraduate education in interdisciplinary science

With Bryan Dewsbury, University of Rhode Island; Clarissa Dirks, Evergreen State College; Brie Tripp, Portland State University

Society faces increasingly complex issues that will demand the integration of multiple disciplines to tackle. Vision and Change charged educators with equipping undergraduate biology students with the “ability to ‘tap’ into the interdisciplinary nature of science”. Yet, researchers have yet to develop and test an instrument to measure this competency. In our preliminary work, we administered essay prompts to 72 students in upper division biology courses at an urban research university. The prompts asked students to address complex real-world issues related to course content. We used a previously-developed rubric to score essays on four constructs.  To test if the instrument captured student interdisciplinary thinking, we conducted semi-structured interviews with students who completed the essay (n = 25). Based on inconsistencies between the rubric scores and student interviews, our findings necessitated altering the rubric scale, modifying rubric constructs, and adding a new construct.  Here we aim to pilot the modified rubric across three institutions comprised of divergent student groups. We present the process of working as a cross-institutional team and our research plan to pilot the modified rubric. Ultimately, our iterative process testing the rubric’s validity and reliability will allow instructors nationwide to measure if undergraduate science students are thinking interdisciplinarily.

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