Display Accessibility Tools

Accessibility Tools

Grayscale

Highlight Links

Change Contrast

Increase Text Size

Increase Letter Spacing

Dyslexia Friendly Font

Increase Cursor Size

Share this story

CURE at MSU: Bringing the laboratory experience to undergraduate classrooms

Researchers are integrating their work into undergraduate cell and molecular biology laboratory courses at Michigan State University through the use of Arabidopsis mutant screenings.

Jinjie Liu, an assistant professor in the Biological Sciences Program, is collaborating with the Benning lab at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL) on research looking for suppressor mutants in Arabidopsis plants. Their goal is to figure out how the molecules derived from chloroplast lipids are transported or perceived by the plant and finally trigger plants responses such as stunted growth and more pigments due to hormone imbalances. The concepts and techniques covered in the research project make it a great teaching model for students. A paper on this collaboration was published in "Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education."

Jinjie Liu and students
Jinjie Liu (second on the right) with students
By Kara Headley, MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, 2021

In 2018, Jinjie designed a laboratory course for undergraduate students that would take the research from the Benning lab and translate it into a CURE – a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience.

“CUREs are great models to bring ongoing research projects into the learning community,” Jinjie said. “I appreciate the opportunity of developing a cutting-edge research project into a laboratory course and implementing it in the classroom. With this approach, the students have a deeper understanding of the concepts they learn by putting them into practice. It has been great working closely on this project with the Benning team and with Jon Stoltzfus, director of the MSU Biological Sciences Program.”

This CURE is on its fifth semester at MSU. Each semester, the course changes slightly to reflect the work happening in the Benning lab. The students begin the research in the classroom, and the Benning lab continues to build on this once the semester is over.

Plants
Arabidopsis plants used in the classroom
By Kara Headley, MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, 2021

“I have a lot of experience teaching and mentoring undergraduate students in my lab and in a classroom setting,” said Christoph Benning, director of the PRL and University Distinguished Professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. “Having students engage in an ongoing research project developed in my lab has been very gratifying, taking my teaching experience to another level. It also was a novel experience to report the development of this CURE project and its benefits in a recent paper. I am grateful for the collaboration with Jinjie Liu and Jon Stoltzfus.”

The research project is part of the thesis work conducted by Ron Cook, a graduate student in the Benning lab and the Biochemistry & Molecular Biology program at MSU.

Jinjie Liu in the classroom
Jinjie Liu in the classroom
By Kara Headley, MSU-DOE
Plant Research Laboratory, 2021

“This was a great opportunity to work with Jinjie and to get to know students who are interested in research,” Ron said. “It has been useful for discovering promising mutants in plant hormone metabolism and signaling, and for recruiting promising undergrads to be involved in research at the PRL.”

Jinjie’s passion for teaching her students is unmistakable to anyone who hears her discuss working with students and witnessing them learn and grow.

“Watching as my students learn is the best part,” Jinjie said. “Some come in without much laboratory experience and seeing their progress at the end of the course is amazing.”


This material is based upon work supported by Michigan State University; MSU AgBioResearch; MSU Foundation; MSU College of Natural Science; Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Biosciences, Office of Basic Energy Sciences of the United States Department of Energy (Grant DE-FG02-91ER20021); and the MSU Training Program in Plant Biotechnology for Health and Sustainability.

Top Stories

Photon to plate: How increasing the photosynthetic efficiency of potatoes could lead to a greener future Photon to plate: How increasing the photosynthetic efficiency of potatoes could lead to a greener future

Improving the photosynthetic power-plants in crops could mean using less fossil fuel derived energy supplements in crop cultivation and lead to a second Green Revolution, a new life-cycle assessment (LCA) from the Walker lab at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory (PRL), finds.

Using Artificial Intelligence to delve into plant cell secrets Using Artificial Intelligence to delve into plant cell secrets

A new AI system, called DeepLearnMOR, can identify organelles and classify hundreds of microscopy images in a matter of seconds and with an accuracy rate of over 97%. The study illustrates the potential of AI to significantly increase the scope, speed, and accuracy of screening tools in plant biology.

Study links energy metabolism to reduced fertility in overheated bean crops Study links energy metabolism to reduced fertility in overheated bean crops

The study reports that the activity levels of the carbon metabolism protein, G6PDH, are related to decreased production of pollen in bean flowers. As global temperatures rise, some bean crops, including Michigan-grown varieties, might be more sensitive to higher heat levels.