Thelma Madzima collaborates with Coding for Life Science (coding4lifescience.org), a non-profit dedicated to providing high school students with authentic scientific research experiences in the life sciences. The current group includes ~10 high school students from different schools on the east-side of the Seattle-area (Bellevue/Kirkland/Redmond). The students are conducting an RNA-seq study of different tissues of Salmonberry, a pacific northwest (PNW) native plant. Most of the students participating in this “Salmonberry Genomics” project were previously participants of the cutting-edge summer high school program Coding For Medicine (https://hs.coding4medicine.com), that focuses at the intersection of biology and computational skills.
Incorporation of authentic research experiences in the undergraduate classroom has been demonstrated to bolster student success in STEM fields (Bangera and Brownell 2014). UW Bothell Senior Lecturer, Dr. Alaron Lewis and I have established a CURE program for students enrolled in Intro. Bio. II (B BIO 200) using on-going research projects in my lab, thereby integrating my ongoing research into the classroom. This ‘maize epigenetics’ CURE project includes quarter-long lab exercises, where students perform bisulfite sequencing and analysis of promoters of maize genes in drought treated vs. control samples. At the end of the quarter, students present their research in a poster session. This provides early-career, pre-major students an opportunity to learn about epigenetic inheritance.
There has been great interest in developing a procedure in which an ‘epigenetics’ project could be used in other biological systems or questions that of interest and relevant to faculty and students at community colleges and PUIs in Seattle-area. In 2018, Dr. Lewis developed a protocol in which this project can be performed at other institutions being beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year. By exposing students to research early in their careers, we hope to broaden participation of underrepresented minority and first-generation students.