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Stephanie Mel

Research in the Undergraduate Classroom

There is a broad consensus that research experiences are of great value to students, but not all students have the opportunity to join research labs. To enrich the undergraduate experience, my work has focused on bringing research projects directly into the undergraduate classroom. I have done this using several different approaches.

Large Course-Based-Undergraduate-Research-Experience (CURE): Most recently, I have been co-directing the Introductory Biology Laboratory (BILD 4), a CURE that serves nearly two thousand students each year. Using physiological, molecular, and bioinformatics approaches, undergraduates contribute data to an ongoing research project that is focused on soil microbiome biodiversity. Many aspects of teaching a CURE to thousands of students are of great interest to the broader educational community, including how best to structure a lab course for so many inexperienced students, and how the scientific data collected by students just beginning to learn the scientific method might eventually be published. To this end, my colleagues and I are currently developing a method to determine the reliability of student-collected data in preparation for publishing the results of this soil microbiome research project.

Small directed research course: In collaboration with the Genomics Education Partnership, I designed a one-time research-based course focused on exploring unusual features of Drosophila chromatin structure. Based on their gene annotation contributions in this course, students from the class became co-authors on a manuscript describing genomic properties of Drosophila melanogaster Muller F elements. This project was also featured on UCSD news: “Biology Students Join Hundreds of Undergraduates Across Nation to Co-Author Genomics Research Paper.” May 14, 2015.

Research module in large enrollment laboratory course: San Diego is part of the California Floristic Province, a world biodiversity hotspot. To help characterize the diversity of organisms in this region, my colleagues and I designed a research-based DNA Barcoding module for the Recombinant DNA Techniques Laboratory class. Students identified invertebrate organisms collected at the Scripps Coastal Reserve using DNA sequences, and contributed their data to an international DNA Barcoding database. This module was used by several thousand UCSD students and disseminated widely in the educational community.

Select Publications

  • Mel, SF, Micou, MK, Gaur, K, Lenh, D, Liu, CZ and Lo, SM. (2019) Learning to Pipet Correctly by Pipetting Incorrectly? CourseSource.
  • Lo, Stanley M and Mel, S (2017) Examining Microbial Biodiversity in Soil: A Large-Enrollment Introductory Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience. Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching. Proceedings of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education Vol. 38, Article 6.
  • Henter, HJ and Mel, S. (2016) Effects of gender on student response to course-based research. Journal of College Science Teaching. Vol. 46(2), 17–25.
  • Leung, W, Shaffer, CD, Reed, LK, Smith, ST, Barshop, W, Dirkes, W, ….. Mel, SF……VanEck, E. (2015) Drosophila Muller F elements maintain a distinct set of genomic properties over 40 million years of evolution. G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics, 5(5), 719-740.
  • Lopatto, D, Hauser, C, Jones, CJ, Paetkau, D, Chandrasekaran, V, Dunbar, D, …. Mel, SF, ……Elgin, SCR. (2014) A central support system can facilitate implementation and sustainability of a classroom-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) in genomics. CBE Life Sciences Education , 13(4), 711-723.
  • Shaffer CD, Alvarez CJ, Bednarski AE, Dunbar D, Goodman AL, Reinke C, Rosenwald AG, Wolyniak MJ, Bailey C, Barnard D, Bazinet C, Beach DL, Bedard JE, Bhalla S, Braverman J, Burg M, Chandrasekaran V, Chung HM, Clase K, Dejong RJ, Diangelo JR, Du C, Eckdahl TT, Eisler H, Emerson JA, Frary A, Frohlich D, Gosser Y, Govind S, Haberman A, Hark AT, Hauser C, Hoogewerf A, Hoopes LL, Howell CE, Johnson D, Jones CJ, Kadlec L, Kaehler M, Silver Key SC, Kleinschmit A, Kokan NP, Kopp O, Kuleck G, Leatherman J, Lopilato J, Mackinnon C, Martinez-Cruzado JC, McNeil G, Mel S, Mistry H, Nagengast A, Overvoorde P, Paetkau DW, Parrish S, Peterson CN, Preuss M, Reed LK, Revie D, Robic S, Roecklein-Canfield J, Rubin MR, Saville K, Schroeder S, Sharif K, Shaw M, Skuse G, Smith CD, Smith MA, Smith ST, Spana E, Spratt M, Sreenivasan A, Stamm J, Szauter P, Thompson JS, Wawersik M, Youngblom J, Zhou L, Mardis ER, Buhler J, Leung W, Lopatto D, Elgin SCR., A Course-Based Research Experience: How Benefits Change with Increased Investment in Instructional Time, (2014), CBE Life Sci Educ. 13(1): 111-30.
  • Henter, HJ, M. Butler, and S. Mel. (2014) Variation in student response to an authentic research experience. Proceedings of the 21st Annual ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators. Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education 15: 70-71.
  • Butler, M, Henter H, and Mel S. (2014) From Bugs to Barcodes: Using Molecular Tools to Study Biodiversity. Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching. Proceedings of the Association for Biology Laboratory EducationVol. 35, 41 – 55.
  • Emerson, J.A., Silver-Key, S. C., Alvarez, C. J., Mel, S, McNeil, G., Saville, K. J., Leung, Wl, Shaffer, C.D., Elgin, S. C. R., (2013) Introduction to the Genomics Education Partnership and Collaborative Genomics Research in Drosophila. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching, Proceedings of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education. Vol. 34, 135 – 165.
  • Mel, S, Henter, H and Butler, M. (2013) Biodiversity Research in Undergraduate Lab Courses, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching, Proceedings of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education. Vol. 34, 469 – 471.


Stephanie Mel received her Ph.D. from the University of California San Francisco in 1992. She was a Cancer Research Institute Postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School and then joined the Division of Biological Sciences at UCSD in 1998, where she is currently a Teaching Professor. She was the recipient of a Chancellors Associates Award for undergraduate teaching, as well as Outstanding Faculty Awards from Revelle and Marshall Colleges at UCSD.

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