Introductory Biology 2: a modular-based laboratory course for engaging introductory students in research

Vanessa Muilenburgmuilenburg@hope.eduHope College
Virginia McDounoughmcdonough@hope.eduHope College

Project Location

First year students complete three modules of related experiments corresponding to the following topics: cell biology, genetics and evolution. After collecting and recording data in lab notebooks, students statistically analyze course data and make conclusions. Students also give group presentations and write individual lab reports.

Student Audience

Introductory, Major

Scientific Domain

  • Evolution
  • Genetics/Genomics
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular and cellular biology

Nature of the Research

  • Wet lab/bench research
  • Informatics/computational research
  • Basic research

Core Concepts

  • Evolution: The diversity of life evolved over time by process of mutation, selection, and genetic change.
  • Structure and Function: Basic units of structure define the function of all living things.
  • Information Flow and Exchange: The growth and behavior of organisms are activated through the expression of genetic information in context.
  • Pathways and Transformation of Energy: Biological systems grow and change by processes based on chemical transformation pathways and are governed by the laws of thermodynamics.

Core Competencies

  • Applying the process of science
  • Using quantitative reasoning
  • Tapping into the interdisciplinary nature of science
  • Communicating and collaborating
  • Understanding the relationship between science and society

Guiding Questions

  • In what ways do the structures of cellular organelles and molecules relate to the function of those organelles and molecules?
  • What is the genotype of your dog for three coat characteristics, and how does the genotype relate to the observed phenotype?
  • Do white clover populations from around the world exhibit adaptive polymorphism, and are the populations in Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium?
  • What is the phylogenetic relationship among eight primates based on morphological and biochemical characteristics?

Learning Objectives

  • Investigate scientific questions using the scientific method, including writing hypotheses, making observations, recording and statistically analyze data, and making conclusions
  • Use basic lab equipment/methods such as compound microscopes, micropipettes, spectrophotometer systems, gel electrophoresis, PCR, BLAST analysis of DNA and nucleotide sequences, phylogenetic analysis using morphological and biochemical features
  • Communicate biological research orally and in written lab reports
  • Search for, read, and interpret primary literature
  • Work collaboratively in a team


Introductory Biology II is a full-semester CURE course for first-year biology students. Students conduct experiments related to three modules: cell biology, genetics and evolution. The topics studied coincide with that taught in the introductory biology II lecture course. In the first module students investigate various aspects of cell biology including membrane permability, ezyme kinetics and antimicrobial agents/microbiology. In the genetics module, students obtain DNA from their favorite dog and isolate, amplify and sequence three loci related to coat type. Students use bioinformatic tools to relate the genotype and phenotype of their dogs and then present their findings in groups. In the evolution module, students study white clover populations from around the world in order to determine if they exhibit adaptive polymorhpism and if the populations are in Hardy-Weinberg Equilbirium. Finally, students study the phylogentic relationship among eight primates based on morphological and biochemical charactersitics. Students are assesed on mastery of lab skills and statisitcal analysis during lab practical exams and write peer-edited papers in the style of a scientific paper in lab groups.

Getting Started

Computers, statisitical software, compound microscopes, thermocyclers, DNA sequencer, gel boxes, primate skulls, clover plants, spectrophotometer, micropipettes, and other basic lab equipment.


1-2 hours per week
Muilenburg, Vanessa Hope College
McDounough, Virginia Hope College

Class time

3 hours per week for 1 semester