Examples of in-class, faculty-coached problems from an introductory biology course
RNA processing and northern blot technique problem Students are given a figure of a northern blot from a journal article, and are asked to interpret the results, demonstrating an understanding of both the northern blot technique and RNA processing in eukaryotic cells.
Gleevec and the cell cycle problem Students are given a problem about a relatively new treatment for cancer, Gleevec, and asked to apply and synthesize what they have learned about cell signaling and the eukaryotic cell cycle to answer why this targeted treatment works to prevent cell division with fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapeutic agents.
Gene expression during development: Experimental design problem This problem challenges students to design experiments using techniques measuring gene expression (reverse transcriptase PCR, microarrays, in situ hybridization).
Phylogenetics problems Students receive information about cladistics and apply this phylogenetic approach to two problems, by collecting data, determining whether traits are ancestral or derived, and using this information to select the most parsimonious tree.
Malnutrition, DNA replication, development, and schizophrenia homework problem At the beginning of a unit on DNA, DNA replication, and mitosis, students are given a short science news article summarizing a recent research paper. This assignment links the article to figures and key techniques from a related journal article, requiring students to apply and transfer the knowledge they gained in the unit.