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Abstract

Currently the undergraduate biology curriculum at 2 and 4-year colleges especially in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is undergoing a facelift by implementing a range of recommendations of committees on education. This has produced a demand to educate and train the current and future generation of undergraduates as scientists capable to perform modern biological research that is heavily dependent on genomic training, such as phylogenomics. It is our observation that the HBCUs may not have a strong infrastructure enough to meet this challenge without the development of vigorous research-based learning programs to complement the traditional lecture-only based configuration. In this case study, the first author undertook the objective to facilitate an undergraduate genomic research-pedagogy at the biology department in Kentucky State University, the only HBCU in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The wet-lab activities in this NSF funded research project include molecular microbiology training in culturing bacteria, isolating DNA, performing PCR, cloning amplicons and analyzing the sequence data. The associated case-study subject was assessed in gaining of wet-lab skills, knowledge, application of protocols, analysis of results and impact on career choice. The results reveal an enhanced student confidence in handling of molecular techniques and positive admiration towards bioinformatics. It suggests that the wet-lab based research pedagogy could play a role in retention of students in biology. Although this case-study subject has appreciated the value of the phylogenomic approaches, a substantial and continual support is required to retain student interest especially institution like this HBCU.

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