Students in Dr. Karen Guzman’s Introductory Research Course filled the second floor of the Campbell University Science Building this morning with posters that summarized a semester’s worth of study and analysis of the published research project of their choice.
The Biology 205 poster presentations have been a popular event in Campbell’s science circles for nearly two decades now, and the idea even gained national attention when local professors presented a workshop on the idea at the National. Association of Biology Teachers in Tennessee in 2008.
“During this course, students learn various aspects of research,” said Guzman, “and since they don’t have time to be in the lab or in the field, they analyze published research papers from their choices throughout the semester and present the results as if they were their own.
Over 80 students, mostly sophomores, presented posters to faculty and fellow students on Friday, with their grade determined not only by their knowledge of the material, but also by their ability to present and discuss it. with their teachers and classmates. This year’s topics were more diverse than ever, with presentations on everything from DNA repair to artificial light in horticulture and antimicrobial synthesis in garlic cloves.
“It’s a chance for the students to really get into the research process so that they can assess for themselves what good science is; they see how a study was done instead of getting the final story from a textbook, ”said biology professor Neil Milan. “That makes all the difference.”
Milan teaches a senior seminar course on the scientific method which he calls “Breaking Bad Hypotheses”. Its aim is to encourage students to think about the logic and philosophy behind a solid scientific experience. According to Milan, sometimes students learn best when they see examples of experimental setups and flawed conclusions. They themselves learn to avoid the same pitfalls.
Guzman’s biology class is an intro in which students analyze completed studies, and Milan says it’s a great precursor to taking charge of their own experiments. Seniors are asked to analyze an incomplete hypothesis that is currently under investigation and explain why the study is organized that way.
“I went to public schools,” said Milan. “At Campbell, we have more one-on-one time to correct misconceptions about scientific research that we don’t have in a boardroom. One of the hardest things to teach is that there is more to an experiment than “here is premise A, which led to B, and clearly led to C, then we found D.” Students need to see logical dead ends and other things that don’t work along the way. When you start to research how the studies were conducted, you can see how scientists are getting around the mistakes and genuinely evaluating their processes. “
Especially in an age when there seem to be studies to back up every point of fact, sound processes are incredibly important.
“There is a certain level of science literacy that people need today. At Campbell, our research courses provide that.