Biological Sciences

Bacteriophage program

  • Dr. Graham Hatfull from Biological Sciences was awarded an HHMI Professorship by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 2002 to support innovation in the education of college students.
  • As a result, Dr. Hatfull was instrumental in developing a discovery-based biology course for introductory students at University of Pittsburgh in which students discover, characterize and sequence the genome of phages.
  • The course, called Science Education Alliance Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science (SEA-PHAGES) was finalized in 2008 and has shown great success in engaging students in their own learning, getting them excited about science and, as a consequence, has led to improvements in student retention within STEM and has increased the number of students interested in participating in original research.
  • The course has been since adopted/adapted by over 70 other universities across the country.
  • Read about the success of this course in an article in mBio.
  • More information about the success of the SEA-PHAGES course:
  • There is now a national database of nearly 5000 phages to which new ones are periodically added.

Improving Biology Education at Pitt through the Quantitative Undergraduate Biology Education and Synthesis (QUBES) Program

  • Dr. Sam Donovan from Biological Sciences is one of the principal investigators for this program
  • Him and his colleagues at University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the College of William and Mary have recently been awarded a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to establish this program
  • The primary goals of the QUBES program are to:
    • Coordinate the efforts and resources of disparate communities invested in promoting quantitative biology education;
    • Support faculty understanding and implementation of specific quantitative biology concepts and teaching approaches;
    • Increase the visibility, utility, and adoption of existing quantitative biology materials and the capacity for peer educator interaction;
    • Quantify and track faculty contribution to quantitative biology education scholarship; and,
    • Study and Disseminate the features of QUBES that increase implementation success.
  • For more information about this exciting program, visit the QUBES hub.
  • Read about the QUBES program in Pitt Chronicle

Inquiry-Based Introductory Biology labs

  • Dr. Jean Schmidt and Dr. Elia Crisucci have been working in redesigning the Fundamentals of Biology laboratory courses toward an inquiry-based model. They discussed their approach in detail at a dB-SERC pizza lunch.
  • More information on the Events-Journal Club page.
  • In addition, Dr. Schmidt and Dr. Crisucci are closely working with Yale's Center for Scientific Teaching and were partners in the Small World Initiative pilot to develop a discovery-based lab course which engages students in antibiotic discovery from soil microbes.

Mentor/Mentee fellowship program

  • The department of Biological Sciences has developed an 11 week summer program which encourages students who have not done research to get involved. The program pairs up Junior and Senior undergraduates with Freshmen and Sophomores to work on joint projects and develop skills together.