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Genetic analysis in model systems using bioinformatic approaches provides a rich context for a concrete and conceptual understanding of gene structure and function. With the intent to engage students in research and explore disease biology utilizing the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans model, we developed a semester-long course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) in a hybrid (online/in-person) learning environment—the gene-editing and evolutionary nematode exploration CURE (GENE-CURE). Using a combination of bioinformatic and molecular genetic tools, students performed structure-function analysis of disease-associated variants of uncertain significance (VUS) in human orthologs. With the aid of a series of workshop-style research sessions, students worked in teams of two to six members to identify a conserved VUS locus across species and design and test a polymerase chain reaction-based assay for targeted editing of a gene in the nematode and downstream genotyping. Research session discussions, responsible conduct of research training, electronic laboratory notebook, project reports, quizzes, and group poster presentations at a research symposium were assessed for mastery of learning objectives and research progress. Self-reflectionswere collected from students to assess engagement, science identity, and science efficacy.Qualitative analysis of these reflectionsindicated several gains suggesting that all students found many aspects of the GENE-CURE rewarding (learning process of research, self-confidencein research and science identity, and personal interest) and challenging (iterative research and failure, time management, COVID-19 pandemic, and life issues).

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Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education




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