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Advanced Multidisciplinary Training in Agricultural Microbiome Science


One of the most profound challenges in educating the U.S.'s food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences workforce is modernizing training in advanced high-throughput sequencing and omics approaches, including analysis using bioinformatics software. Within this realm, an area of broad interest to FANH sciences is plant and animal defensive microbiomes and the specific host-microbe interactions that act to drive these systems. Quality integrated education and training programs in this area are sorely lacking, partly due to the rapid technological changes in sequencing and computation and partly due to insufficient efforts to pull together the necessary multidisciplinary training programs. Therefore, this proposal seeks to bridge the gap in omics and bioinformatics training while addressing two HEC Educational Need Areas (1) Curriculum Development, Instructional Delivery Systems and Expanding Student Career Opportunities; and (2) Faculty Preparation and Enhancement for Teaching. Specifically, the approach centers on authentic project-based learning and multidisciplinary peer-based mentoring, implemented through three new Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) and piloting of a new Master's of Science concentration in the focal areas of host-microbe genomics, animal and plant microbiomes, and bioinformatics. The project will also facilitate advanced faculty training in these critical areas for four faculty from different departments. Through rigorous pedagogical practices in teaching students real-world cutting-edge tools, this project will provide core competencies for approximately 194 students in baccalaureate and master's programs at Texas Tech University. It is anticipated that trainees from this program may become future trainers, exponentially expanding the future omics- and bioinformatics-trained FANH workforce.The project's main objective is to change education in FANH-related fields (food, agricultural, natural resources, and human sciences) through modernizing training in methods, design, and analysis by creating a curriculum of core multidisciplinary courses. The curriculum centers on experiential education or Learning by Doing (LD), which has been extensively evaluated as one of the most powerful learning approaches, and Authentic Problem-Based Learning (PBL) which is one of the most powerful ways to attract, engage, and train college-level students to become leaders in the future workforce. The new curricula include new cross-listed "CUREs" (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences) and a new cross-listed Master's degree concentration. Specifically, the target objectives (depicted in Figure 1) are:(1) To create and test three CUREs titled "Host-Microbe Genomic Frontiers", "Plant and Animal Microbiomes," "Bioinformatic Problem-Solving" associated with follow-up summer internship opportunities, 1.1 Start-up phase: develop detailed syllabus, curriculum content, set-up academic program cross-listings with registrar, and create and distribute recruitment materials. 1.2 Run the courses, assess student and TA feedback, and refine the content for a second run of the courses, select and train summer interns. 1.3 Close-out phase: final analysis of CURES, preparation of research and educational manuscripts for publication and reports. Develop/negotiate plans for continuation and/or dissemination. (2) To create and test a new Master of Science concentration in "Microbiome Sciences," 2.1 Start-up phase: develop detailed MS program description, course-requirements or recommendations, integrated course syllabi and program cross-listings, and advertise and recruit the first cohorts into the program. 2.2 Run the MS concentration and assess graduate student and faculty feedback on the effectiveness of the programs in achieving departmental, college, and university objectives. and(3) To prepare faculty with additional advanced trainings in Big Data, Multi-Omics, and NCBI-integrated software coding to help implement and improve these NGS-centered FANH training programs at TTU. 3.1 Identify ideal training schedules and modes (in-person and remote) for lead PI advanced trainings. PI participates in trainings. After trainings occur, evaluate each training for its educational improvement outcomes for students.

Brown, A. M.
Texas Tech University
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