Many of my biology classes at Longwood have had a large lab focus, because science is heavily based around designing and running experiments to discover unknowns. Some of the first classes biology majors at Longwood take involve running pre-made experiments, but not designing them nor focusing on real-world applications of data collected. Once we move past some of the introductory courses, we start focusing on how to design experiments to learn new information that hasn’t previously been known.
BIOL 251: In my introduction to ecology class, I designed an experiment for the first time in my college career. This was a big learning experience for me, because the experimentation I had done before this class was all professor-designed, so I didn’t have any control over the question we asked or the data collection procedures. This helped me understand that experiments are supposed to research new/unknown information and that sometimes it’s hard to think of something new. This class really gave me experience in the more creative side of science which was challenging, but once my group and I created our question, we were able to realistically determine ways that we could test our hypothesis and come up with quantitative, analyzable data which I found exciting.
Artifact (link to slides): https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1fZjCtpFN6XTw-4A-M3127zkULDaQwfiwmwhteckNxUA/edit?usp=sharing
BIOL 450: One of the largest scale experiments I’ve run at Longwood was for my biology of cancer class. This project included me and a group of my classmates designing and running an experiment about how mutations can affect cancer. The only parameters we were given were that broad topic and a specific database to collect our data from. Because we weren’t going to be collecting data ourselves, but using someone else’s, the experimental design process was unique. Some of the questions that we proposed weren’t feasible with the provided data. When we did finally land on a question and supporting data, we ran our experiment and were able to find new information that we hadn’t discovered in our literature review on our topic. This was highly rewarding because I felt like I had actually created a novel, meaningful research experiment and contributed something to the cancer biology community.
Artifact (link to slides): https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1fyALmCCpFsDqLwTMKw2qPjPYCMxVjx385EUueY13dvo/edit?usp=sharing
BIOL 425: Many of the research projects and presentations I’ve done at Longwood have been in groups. However, when I took my modern genetics class last semester, I was tasked with designing a research project using online databases and different forms of biotechnology. Throughout the course of this class, we learned about bioinformatics and how to use different software to help us analyze data so that when we did our research project, we were able to utilize many different sources to find information. The class was focused on looking at the COVID-19 and how its genetics have changed and evolved into different variants. The only parameters we were given for the project were that we had to look at two different COVID variants and use bioinformatic softwares to “tell a story” about them. I had a very hard time coming up with a research story to tell, or even just figuring out what variants I wanted to look at because the guidelines were so broad and there were so many possibilities. However, I started reading literature and gathering background information on a few different variants and finally found that the Delta and Epsilon variants had very similar mutations and were evolutionarily very close. I thought that was interesting and really liked the idea of looking at the evolution of COVID because even though viruses are not living, the COVID genome has evolved since it was first discovered and there was a story to tell about the evolution of the variants from the original strand found in Wuhan and their relation to each other. Reading background research and coming up with an idea for this presentation that I was actually interested in and excited about was incredibly fun and overall a really good learning experience for me.
Link to Slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1aJ29nqyepYHggSLIbYOfkM_bzSwWX66W7P3PcyJ7Ix4/edit?usp=sharing