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Data analysis using open data and software reveal environment-mediated microbial heterogeneity in soil and sediment samples, while enhancing STEM research experience at an undergraduate institution

Journal of College Science Teaching—May/June 2024 (Volume 53, Issue 3)

By Aditi Sengupta, Nallely Delara, Joyce Barahona, and Justin Garcia

Undergraduate institutions serve as stepping stones to a student’s career. Teaching and learning in the science classrooms requires quality and integrated teaching-research learning experiences that prepare students to advance their careers. Using publicly available datasets and open-access data analyses software serves can be impactful in engaging students in meaning research experiences, while keeping low institutional expenses associated with implementing and supporting research opportunities. Here, we show two examples of student-led data research that utilized openly available data and software to analyze microbial sequence data. As part of this process, we also recognized a need for discipline-specific databases that can hold a record of publicly available data. Such a set-up will support undergraduate educators and students in accessing data relevant to their requirements, thereby narrowing the gap between data availability and accessibility. Finally, both examples illustrate the benefits of using open resources in supporting student learning, with the possibility of using such resources to develop course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURES) as part of course curricula.

Earth & Space Science Research STEM Postsecondary

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