Zooming into the Lab: Perspectives on Maintaining Undergraduate Biological Research through Computationally Adapted Remote Learning in Times of Crisis

J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2021 Mar 31;22(1):22.1.84. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.v22i1.2563. eCollection 2021.


At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many academic institutions attempted to limit viral spread throughout their communities by suspending face-to-face student instruction. The rapid transition from in-person to remote learning dramatically altered student-instructor interactions and ushered in a new set of educational challenges. Despite recent publications by experienced researchers that address the impacts of remote instruction on undergraduate research at a holistic level, we currently lack evidence for successful implementation of best practices in a remote research environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, to enhance remote scientific experiences and improve the skills of young biologists facing uncertain challenges in their future academic careers, we make nine recommendations for best practices in maintaining quality undergraduate research experiences, especially for computationally adapted projects, during online learning periods in times of crisis. Based on our experience participating in an undergraduate Stanford Summer Research Program that was conducted entirely remotely during the summer of 2020, we describe nine recommendations for best practices that institutions, faculty mentors, and undergraduate mentees can execute to maintain a high quality of biological research. Further elucidating the ways in which distance learning can be improved at the undergraduate research level will offer insights into making the most out of remote biological research in the months and years ahead.