Undergraduate journal clubs are important

Jennie Kuzdzal-Fick (black shirt), Owen Gilbert, and Sara Kalla, celebrating their Ph.D.s

Jennie Kuzdzal-Fick (black shirt), Owen Gilbert, and Sara Kalla, celebrating their Ph.D.s

In the summer, the undergraduates in our lab group meet without us. During the academic year they have a lab meeting and journal club dedicated just to them. This is important because it is hard to think critically when you have people with much more experience in the group.

We met yesterday with ten of the undergraduates that work in our lab. We had three pizzas for them. They had done the reading and answered the study questions that would guide the conversation on two papers from our lab written by former grad students Jennie Kuzdzal-Fick and Owen Gilbert. At the end of this piece are the study questions we used.

The way we operated was we broke the students into groups of three and gave them each three questions. We mixed it up between the two papers because they are related. They spent about seven minutes discussing in their group of three, then presented their answers to the group. The one person who was not there turned in written answers to the questions.

I was very impressed at their careful reading and particularly at the good ideas about additional experiments that they had. These students are simply a delight for our group.

But another way of having a journal club is to do it more broadly, among multiple lab groups. Such also exists at Wash U. One of these is called JCube. I only know about it because one of our grad students talked to them recently. Learning happens in many venues and the more you take advantage of, the more you will get out of your wonderful undergraduate years!

Here’s to learning!

Study Questions on Exploiting new terrain

  1. What is the main point of this paper?
  2. If the amoebae aggregate when they run out of food, why don’t they disaggregate when they run into food?
  3. What is the advantage to joining as a slug to move to a new place?
  4. What can you say about the cells that drop off the back? Are they different from other cells?
  5. Are the advantages to sociality more from moving as a slug or forming the fruiting body, when 20% die to lift others? What would you want to know to answer this question?
  6. What are the weaknesses of this study?
  7. What additional experiments would you do?
  8. In any study it is important to frame the work with respect to research that has gone before. How well does this paper do this? What are the interesting findings from before?
  9. Consider the results with respect to the figures. Any good paper should have great figures with all the important data in the figures. What might you change with respect to this paper?

Study Questions on Mind the Gap

  1. How does the mind the gap study relate to exploiting new terrain?
  2. How might you have changed the experiments in mind the gap, knowing what you know from exploiting new terrain?
  3. How might you have changed the experiments in exploiting new terrain given what you know from mind the gap?
  4. What are all the reasons you can think of for forming a stalk?
  5. If the different species of Dictyostelium do not frequently co-occur, this study is not very important. Is this true or not? Discuss.
  6. What are the weaknesses of this paper?
  7. What additional experiments would you do?
  8. In any study it is important to frame the work with respect to research that has gone before. How well does this paper do this? What are the interesting findings from before?
  9. Consider the results with respect to the figures. Any good paper should have great figures with all the important data in the figures. What might you change with respect to this paper?
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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Mentoring, The joy of teaching, Undergraduates, Your lab group and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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