NIBLSE: A Network for Integrating Bioinformatics into Life Science Education

CBE Life Sciences Education

This article provides information on the Network for Integrating Bioinformatics into Life Sciences Education (NIBLSE; pronounced “nibbles”) and their efforts to establish bioinformatics as an essential component of undergraduate life sciences education by creating a network of investigators to articulate a shared vision about how best to integrate bioinformatics into life sciences curricula. The initial networking effort in April 2014 convened 26 biology and computer science faculty from diverse institutions and professionals from the private sector to explore core issues related to the long-term. In particular, the conference focused on how best to facilitate effective communication and enhance opportunities for collaboration by discussing current challenges and potential next steps for the 1) integration of bioinformatics into life sciences curricula; 2) assessment of bioinformatics educational resources; and 3) professional development of life sciences educators.

Males Under-Estimate Academic Performance of their Female Peers in Undergraduate Biology Classrooms

Published in Plous One

Women who start college in one of the natural or physical sciences leave in greater proportions than their male peers. The reasons for this difference are complex, and one possible contributing factor is the social environment women experience in the classroom. Using social network analysis, this research study explores how gender influences the confidence that college-level biology students have in each other’s mastery of biology. Results reveal that males are more likely than females to be named by peers as being knowledgeable about the course content. This effect increases as the term progresses, and persists even after controlling for class performance and outspokenness. The bias in nominations is specifically due to males over-nominating their male peers relative to their performance. The over-nomination of male peers is commensurate with an overestimation of male grades by 0.57 points on a 4 point grade scale, indicating a strong male bias among males when assessing their classmates. Females, in contrast, nominated equitably based on student performance rather than gender, suggesting they lacked gender biases in filling out these surveys. These trends persist across eleven surveys taken in three different iterations of the same Biology course. In every class, the most renowned students are always male. This favoring of males by peers could influence student self-confidence, and thus persistence in this STEM discipline.


Scholars Challenge Colleges to Reform STEM Learning

Published in Science

Melanie M. Cooper of and colleagues from Michigan State University recently published an article in Science Magazine saying that college students are expected to learn too many facts that do not connect across their coursework or prepare them to apply scientific knowledge in their lives. They believe a different set of strategies taking hold in K-12 schools can be used to improve learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, during the first two years of college.

New Study Tests Three-Step Intervention to Increase Faculty Gender Diversity in STEM

Published in BioScience

Using a three-step intervention derived from self-determination theory, an interdisciplinary team from Montana State University demonstrated a low-cost way to improve gender diversity in STEM-faculty hiring. The results show that the numbers of women candidates considered for and offered tenure-track positions were significantly higher in the intervention groups compared with those in controls. Searches in the intervention were 6.3 times more likely to make an offer to a woman candidate, and women who were made an offer were 5.8 times more likely to accept the offer from an intervention.

Muy Loco Parentis: How ‘Freakouts’ Over Student Privacy Hamper Innovation By Michael Feldstein

Published in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Ferpa is inconsistently interpreted across institutions and often misunderstood to be far more restrictive than it actually is. Why is there such anxiety about it? Why does it so often provoke worry and hand-wringing above and beyond what the law justifies? And why don’t students get a say in, for example, whether making their wiki content public violates their privacy?

President Obama Pushed for Computer-Science Education

Published in The Atlantic

In order to address the need for the next generation workforce to develop skills in computer science, the President has asked congress to fund a $4 billion proposal that will be spent over three years to train teachers, connect schools with corporate and nonprofit partners, and expand instructional material. The funding programs, which will appear in the president’s forthcoming budget proposal for 2017, are just the latest effort from the White House to bring more science and technology education to students.