Through support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute the College of Science and Engineering has developed a new Core Laboratory Facility that contains a variety of research instruments central to modern laboratory training in biology and biochemistry, such as a real time PCR machine, a microarray colony picker, microarray chip spotter and chip reader, a DNA sequencing system, a gel documentation system, a preparative centrifuge, computers with bioinformatics and image analysis software. With the state of the art equipment centrally located in one core facility the lab can be employed for instruction in a variety of courses and at all levels. The core facility enhances the student’s educational experience by enabling advanced undergraduate research, improving existing experiments in current courses, enabling the creation of exciting new experiments for current courses, enhancing outreach capabilities, and enhancing learning community labs.
An effort to construct learning communities and rely on interdepartmental cooperation to improve introductory courses for beginning students is currently being piloted as part of the HHMI grant initiative. Working together to reduce duplication of resources and coordinate learning objectives can only serve to facilitate more effective learning programs within the College.
In addition to developing learning communities, an ethics course has been developed as part of the HHMI program. This new course entitled “Ethics and Methods of Biological Research” (PHIL 2390.74) highlights important ethical issues and considerations in the field of biological research and is a requirement for any student who is selected to participate in the HHMI program. The ethics course was developed and is taught by UTPA philosophy professor Thomas Pearson, Ph.D.
Future developments in curriculum and instruction include a biochemistry degree program that is certified by the American Chemical Society. The core laboratory facility and new curriculum developments strengthen UTPAs ability to recruit and train a significant number of minority scientists.