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Tulsa Community College

The Bioscience Undergraduate Research Experience in Tulsa (BURET) Institute

The Tulsa Community College CCURI team includes Dr. Julie Marino and Dr. Kent Teague from Oklahoma University, Dr. Kath Curtis from Oklahoma State University and Dr. Ric Baser from TCC.  The professors from TCC involved in the project include Bryan Coppedge, Patty Smith, Dusti Sloan, and project manager, Diana Spencer.  The Tulsa Community College BURET Institute is approaching the growth of undergraduate research through Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE), Course Undergraduate Research Experiences (CURE), faculty development, and inter-institutional research articulations.   The departments involved are Biology and Biotechnology, with faculty participants from the TCC Science and Mathematics Division on the west and southeast campuses. Much history in undergrad research at TCC and student internship development through the team members includes two CUR weekend training sessions, the development of the URSA TCC team, and the TCC STEM Strategic Plan:  The Student Partnership Hub.  “Research is Teaching” is the driving force for focus.  Continued development of authentic research experiences through the CCURI team association is providing quantitative student achievement data for the purpose of providing feedback to improve courses and increase student success.  College goals supporting this endeavor include Achieving the Dream and Complete College America.  The recognized collaborations are between TCC and Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences and Oklahoma University Tulsa.

During the summer of 2012, a new credit-bearing summer research course “Lab Sprints” was developed with Dr. Diana Spencer instructing under the SURE goal.  The course includes an introductory 16-hour intense lab methods section (one hour credit).  Students participating will complete the initial study and then have four options for research.  The students will have the opportunity to: (i) develop an individual research project within the TCC biotechnology labs  for two hour credit called "Lab Sprints Plus";  (ii) participate in the Tulsa Area Bioscience and Educators Research Consortium (TABERC) internship,  during which students will travel to their assigned labs and complete their projects (two hour credit); (iii) complete the TCC course Biotechnology Apprenticeship credit within an area research lab; (iv) continue research with another instructor through another research program.  TCC has committed funding for course coordination following the CCURI project years, provided adequate enrollment numbers are maintained.

Faculty members have committed and begun work in facilitating research investigations and subsequent case study development within the CURE goal.  Courses included within this option for investigation are: Cell Culture, Molecular Biology and Techniques, Zoology, Botany, Conservation Biology, and Plant Conservation.  The case studies will be presented within the investigation courses and additional courses of Biology for Majors and Biology for Non-Majors.  Topics of investigation will include: PCR specifics, beetle host identification, rodent identification, effects of land fill chemical contaminated water on mammalian cells, biosurveys of the native cross timbers and prairies, and native plant propagation.


Students in Dusti Sloan's Cell Culture class have collected water from a waste site (water located directly in front of a landfill), checked water quality parameters, and isolated resident bacteria that might be present.  The students are currently utilizing cell culture techniques to determine the effects, if any, that chemical contaminants (from the waste site), have on cells.  This project has many different doorways that lead to a number of opportunities for students.  First, students have the opportunity for field work research as they travel to waste sites to collect water.  With the water, students complete quality analysis: standard water quality kits are used to determine overall water quality and if common contaminants are present.  A cell culture component is part of the project with bacteria being isolated from the waste water to determine what species are present. These species, if found to be unique to the waste site, could lead to DNA isolation and genetic analysis. This may lead to identification of bacteria that are harmful to ecosystems or lead to the identification of bacteria that can break down contaminants at a particular waste site.  Water collected from the waste site will be filtered (to remove bacterial, fungal, and protozoan contaminants) and used to prepare media. Mammalian cells are utilized in viability assays to determine if unknown chemical contaminants from the waste site have any deleterious effects on cell viability (against a control preparation of medium).

Diana Spencer has had experience with students researching within the curriculum of her Molecular Biology and Techniques course.  She introduces the students to the specifics of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol through a series of learning steps that includes the students extracting DNA from tissue, amplifying the DNA with appropriate primers and thermocycler protocol, purifying and quantifying the PCR product, and analyzing the sequences through a multiple sequence alignment program.  Previous investigations have included male “Y” chromosome genes,Wolbachia genes, and the Cytochrome c Oxidase subunit I (COI) gene.  Using this approach, Dr. Spencer and students have consistently presented posters at science research venues since the spring semester of 2010.  Also, after Diana has taught the students the nuances of Real Time Reverse Transcriptase PCR (RTPCR) students in the same class also have the opportunity to work with a local researcher gathering data to determine cycle threshold fold changes of a particular enzyme produced in rats regarding chronic and acute pain studies.

Patty Smith teaches undergraduate research courses in conservation biology and plant conservation for three hours credit each semester.  These courses have been taught since 2008 with sixteen undergraduate research students working on and/or completing various conservation projects.  The projects include a long-term biosurvey of the ancient Cross Timbers located on TCC West Campus and Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden, dendrochronology (tree ring analysis and tree aging) studies of the ancient Cross Timbers sites, plant fossil collection and identification in the Cross Timbers, and native plant propagation of imperiled species or varieties from Oklahoma and surrounding states.  Undergraduate research students are required to present their research projects at local and/or State meetings, such as Oklahoma Research Day.  These projects, including travel to Oklahoma Research Day and/or technical meetings, are funded through Faculty Innovation Grants and other small grants from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service.

Through an agreement with PhD Candidate, Dr. Heith Crosby, and Dr. Ken Miller, Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at OSU/CHS, the students in Molecular Techniques are able to investigate cellular transcripts.  The students work with Dr. Crosby and his assistant, Brandi Gruenwald (past TCC biotech graduate) to analyze the expression of pain genes using rat model tissue with Real Time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Reaction.  The students first learn the technique from Dr. Diana Spencer and then the students are able to investigate the actual tissue from the experimental and control animals.

Research Presentations

Jeremy Sabo and Sami Ricketts worked through the Summer of 2012 on their CCURI sponsored Lab Sprints Plus course to amplify, ligate, transform and analyze GAPDH gene.  The students presented in August of 2012 at the Oklahoma University Learning Center during the TABERC Summer Students Research Symposium.

Participants in the first, summer 2012 Lab Sprints course sponsored by CCURI.  Students met for 16 hours to develop basic molecular biology techniques.  The course included TABERC students, faculty from TCC, and Lab Sprints Plus students.

Carol Saylor-Hefley presents at the OU Learning Center during her TABERC presentation August, 2012.  Carol worked with Dr. Randy Wymore at OSU/CHS and technician, Lindsey Allen to investigate Morgellon's Disease.  They grew cultures and selected for bacteria and fungi to compare a Morgellon's home to a control home.

Students in Dusti Sloan's Cell Culture class are ready to present their findings at the Oklahoma Academy of Science Technical meeting in November 9, 2012.  The students, Andrew Brown, Bobby Daugherty, See Vang, and Minji Sohn investigated leachate contaminants from a landfill source on mammalian cells.

See Vang and Carol Hefley-Saylor are ready to share the contents of their poster presented Fall 2012 at the Oklahoma Academy of Science Technical Meeting in Edmond, Oklahoma.  The students, along with Edwina Thompson, worked with Dr. Diana Spencer to bar code two genes from a variety of plants, including orchids.  Through PCR, sequencing and analysis of the data through a variety of bioinformatics tools, the scientists were able to demonstrate a phylogenetic tree with the specimen.  This work, a CORE project was completed in the Molecular Biology and Techniques class within the biotechnology curriculum.

Vision and Change Implementation

Integrate Core Concepts and Competencies throughout the Curriculum

  • Define learning goals so that they focus on teaching students the core concepts, and align assessments so that they assess the students’ understanding of these concepts 

  • 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 

  • Develop lifelong science ­learning competencies

  • Introduce fewer concepts, but present them in greater depth. Less really is more

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


Focus on Student ­Centered Learning

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

  • Ensure that undergraduate biology courses are active, outcome oriented, inquiry driven, and relevant

  • Facilitate student learning within a cooperative context

  • Give students ongoing, frequent, and multiple forms of feedback on their progress


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 outcomes

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

  • Encourage all biologists to move beyond the “depth versus breadth” debate. Less really is more

High Impact Practices Implementation

First-Year Seminars and Experiences

Collaborative Assignments and Projects

Undergraduate Research

Diversity/Global Learning

Service Learning

Community-Based Learning


Capstone Courses and Projects

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