Flying in the Face of Adversity: a Drosophila-Based Virtual CURE (Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience) Provides a Semester-Long Authentic Research Opportunity to the Flipped Classroom

J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2021 Nov 30;22(3):e00173-21. doi: 10.1128/jmbe.00173-21. eCollection 2021 Dec.


A call for the integration of research experiences into all biology curricula has been a major goal for educational reform efforts nationally. Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) have been the predominant method of accomplishing this, but their associated costs and complex design can limit their wide adoption. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced programs to identify unique ways to still provide authentic research experiences while students were virtual. We report here a complete guide for the successful implementation of a semester-long virtual CURE that uses Drosophila behavioral assays to explore the connection between pain and addiction with the use of an at-home "lab-in-a-box." Individual components were piloted across three semesters and launched as a 100-level introductory course with 19 students. We found that this course increased science identity and successfully improved key research competencies as per the Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment (URSSA) survey. This course is ideal for flipped classrooms ranging from introductory to upper-level biology/neuroscience courses and can be integrated directly into the lecture period without the need for building a new course. Given the low cost, recent comfort with virtual learning environments, and current proliferation of flipped classrooms following the 2020 pandemic, this curriculum could serve as an ideal project-based active-learning tool for equitably increasing access to authentic research experiences.

Keywords: CURE; Drosophila; active-learning; addiction; backward design; biology; pain; research; science identity; virtual.