Bio 150: Discovering unexpected results
Results not statistically significant.
Sound like a failure?
It's not. It's scientific discovery and inquiry-based learning in Bio 150 "Introduction to Biological Inquiry."
More than 100 students in Bio 150 recently presented posters of the results of their first-semester research, and many found in December not at all what they expected in September.
"The poster session is the culmination of research they have designed themselves," said Diane Robertson, associate professor of biology and one of four Bio 150 instructors. "Posters are the main information exchange in the sciences for presenting original research ideas after working with organisms or a system. Students develop a research hypothesis based on their readings of primary literature.
"Their results may be inconclusive but it doesn't mean that they have failed," Robertson said. "Every question has an answer--whether it's the answer they expected or an entirely different result."
The Bio 150 course is designed to teach a set of research skills, so students see the value of their work and can convince others of a difficult concept.
"Regardless of what you do, you will never think about science in the same way," Robertson said. "The course teaches students to be scientific, literate citizens: how to use the tools of scientific research (controlled experiments, statistical tests) to answer a question and evaluate the results."
The course also clarifies the process of scientific discovery early in their Grinnell experience, especially for those who are serious about science.
Ellen Saliares '11 is considering a biology major and especially appreciated the opportunity to get into the lab immediately as a first-year student. "There was a lot more responsibility involved than I expected--we had to design the experiment, observe and draw conclusions, write a journal article, and prepare a poster," Saliares said. "But the professor never doubted that I could do the work."
Sinan Ozer '11 and Elisabeth Rennick '11 both studied "Plant Genetics and the Environment" and both discovered unexpected results. Ozer found the "the research process to be more complicated than expected," while Rennick gained newfound confidence.
"My confidence level in presenting information was boosted by this course," Rennick said. "I have been intimidated by science courses in the past. Now I know I can do primary research, even though the results are not what we expected."