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McLennan Community College

The Highlander Undergraduate Research Institute (HURI) was established in 2011 at McLennan Community College to create a culture of undergraduate research that will foster interactive student learning through discovery and exploration.

HURI encourages undergraduate student achievement through embedded course research, case studies, poster sessions, and collaborative, supervised research courses in science, engineering, and math. Several travel-based research courses are offered in the spring. Currently, several cross-disciplinary courses are in the planning stages. HURI plans to extend across all collegiate disciplines.


Mars 101: Spring 2013

In the Mars 101 course, 8 students and 4 instructors will conduct interdisciplinary analog research in a Mars simulation habitat sponsored by the non-profit organization The Mars Society.  The Hab is located in the Utah desert.   For one week, students live in full Mars simulation.  Projects are designed throughout the semester and conducted in simulation. MCC is currently the only community college involved. 

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Follow the Mars 101 crew on their blog at

Marine Biology – Coral Reef Undergraduate Research: Spring/May 2013

Students research, design, conduct, statistically analyze, and scientifically present an original scientific research project. Field data collection occurs during a week in the Caribbean at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) in Roatan, Honduras. Students report their results in poster sessions. Previous student research has included damselfish behavior, zooplankton abundance, coral reef disease, algal coverage, and effects of invasive lionfish on native reef fish populations.

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Geology Field Course: Spring/May 2013

Students travel to 4 states in 18 days to learn about the geology    and earth science of the western United States.  Students travel to Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.  As part of a partnership with Mesalands Community College, students also learn how to perform paleontological excavation techniques for dinosaur and reptile fossils from the Mesozoic era.  

Students camp at the Grand Canyon and other campsites throughout the trip.

For more information on the Geology Field Course, visit

Follow the Geology Field Course on their blog at:

General Biology for Science Majors (I and II): Fall, Spring, and Summer Semesters

Majors biology is adapting to recommendations suggested by the AAAS and NSF in “Vision and Change – A Call to Action”, a set of  national science directives. This course is inquiry-based and student driven. Most traditional labs are replaced with experiments designed and implemented by students.  Current experiments include goldfish behavior, plant growth studies, cricket behavior, 2D:4D finger ratios as external indicators of DRD4 (dopamine receptor) genetic variations, and vertebrate animal behavior.

Genetics: Spring 2013

In this team-taught course, students will barcode native Texas plants using Carolina’s barcoding kit. Samples will be sequenced and analyzed against the DNA Subway database.

2389 Independent Student Research: Fall, Spring, and Summer Semesters

In 2389 courses, students work one-on-one with instructors to design and implement a research project.  2389 courses extend across the curricula.  Currently, students are working on projects in engineering/physics, chemistry, geology, and biology.

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HURI Committee

HURI Committee members are: April Andreas, PhD (Engineering/Math), Bernard Smith, PhD (Physics), Gail Illich (Math), Larry Benton (Chemistry), Elaine Fagner (Geology), John Vickrey, PhD (Biology), Stephanie Randell (Biology), Donna Hamilton, PhD (Biology/Texas Tech), and Liz Mitchell (Biology/Acting HURI Director). 


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HURI will be offering professional development opportunities for MCC faculty who are interested in placing inquiry-based research methods in their courses. 

HURI has also solicited MCC faculty for PD needs and ideas, to meet growing needs.  Ideas from outside MCC are welcome. 

HURI hosts several events a semester, entitled “Chat and Dream”.  These food-centered events are open to any faculty across the campus; the aim of Chat and Dream is to offer people an informal, relaxed setting to network, talk about teaching, and to spread the word and success about undergraduate research at MCC. 

Vision and Change Implementation


Integrate Core Concepts and Competencies throughout the Curriculum

  • Introduce the scientific process to students early, and integrate it into all undergraduate biology courses

  • Relate abstract concepts in biology to real ­world examples on a regular basis, and make biology content relevant by presenting problems in a real ­life context 

  • Stimulate the curiosity students have for learning about the natural world

  • Demonstrate both the passion scientists have for their discipline and their delight in sharing their understanding of the world with students


Focus on Student ­Centered Learning

  • Engage students as active participants, not passive recipients, in all undergraduate biology courses

  • Use multiple modes of instruction in addition to the traditional lecture

  • Introduce research experiences as an integral component of biology education for all students, regardless of their major

  • Integrate multiple forms of assessment to track student learning


Promote a Campus wide Commitment to Change

  • Mobilize all stakeholders, from students to administrators, to commit to improving the quality of undergraduate biology education

  • Support the development of a true community of scholars dedicated to advancing the life sciences and the science of teaching

  • Advocate for increased status, recognition, and rewards for innovation in teaching, student success, and other educational outcome


Engage the Biology Community in the Implementation of Change

  • Promote more concept­ oriented undergraduate biology courses, and help all students learn how to integrate facts into larger conceptual contexts 

  • Provide all biology faculty with access to the teaching and learning research referenced throughout this report, and encourage its application when developing courses 

  • Create active ­learning environments for all students, even those in first ­year biology courses

High Impact Practices Implementation

Writing-Intensive Course

Undergraduate Research

Diversity/Global Learning

Service Learning

Community-Based Learning


Capstone Courses and Projects

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