Fiber Force: A Fiber Diet Intervention in an Advanced Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) Course

Julia Massimelli Sewall, Andrew Oliver, Kameryn Denaro, Alexander B Chase, Claudia Weihe, Mi Lay, Jennifer B H Martiny, Katrine Whiteson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are an effective way to introduce students to contemporary scientific research. Research experiences have been shown to promote critical thinking, improve understanding and proper use of the scientific method, and help students learn practical skills including writing and oral communication. We aimed to improve scientific training by engaging students enrolled in an upper division elective course in a human microbiome CURE. The "Fiber Force" course is aimed at studying the effect of a wholesome high-fiber diet (40 to 50 g/day for two weeks) on the students' gut microbiomes. Enrolled students participated in a noninvasive diet intervention, designed health surveys, tested hypotheses on the effect of a diet intervention on the gut microbiome, and analyzed their own samples (as anonymized aggregates). The course involved learning laboratory techniques (e.g., DNA extraction, PCR, and 16S sequencing) and the incorporation of computational techniques to analyze microbiome data with QIIME2 and within the R software environment. In addition, the learning objectives focused on effective student performance in writing, data analysis, and oral communication. Enrolled students showed high performance grades on writing, data analysis and oral communication assignments. Pre- and post-course surveys indicate that the students found the experience favorable, increased their interest in science, and heightened awareness of their diet habits. Fiber Force constitutes a validated case of a research experience on microbiology with the capacity to improve research training and promote healthy dietary habits.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of microbiology & biology education
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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