Dr. Maria Santisteban’s passion for genomics and STEM education are evident in her recent publications. Dr. Santisteban is a contributing author on the paper, “The GEP: Crowd-sourcing big data analysis with undergraduates,” which appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Trends in Genetics. The article describes the success of the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP), which is a large scale program launched in 2006 that engages students in faculty-mentored research in the college classroom. The partnership includes more than 100 faculty members from universities around the nation. Students in the program learn to use bioinformatics and large genomics databases to annotate Drosophila (fruit fly) genomes and to create gene models.
In a similar vein, Dr. Santisteban co-authored the paper, “An undergraduate bioinformatics curriculum that teaches eukaryotic gene structure,” which appeared in the online journal CourseSource. Dr. Santisteban and her co-authors from the Genomics Education Partnership created six Modules intended for introductory students, but suitable also for upper level students, that provide active learning experiences. The Modules are entitled: What is a gene, Transcription Part I (authored by Dr. Santisteban), Transcription Part II, Splicing, Translation, and Alternative Splicing. Hands-on exercises include the use of genomics databases and the annotation of Drosophilagenomes, as described in the Trends in Geneticspaper mentioned above. Students can manipulate genomes using a mirror site for the University of California at Santa Cruz Genome Browser.
The paper discusses implementation of Module lesson plans, as well as their teaching effectiveness, as indicated by student feedback, anecdotal accounts, and student performance on pre- and post-tests. Dr. Santisteban has implemented these modules in two of her classes thus far: Molecular Biology: Principles and Techniques (BIO 4130/BIO 5110) last summer and Cell Biology (BIO 3710) this past fall 2017. Students, some of them seniors, reported that these modules helped them “see” what genes look like and helped them to better understand the concepts of transcription, RNA processing, and translation. Cassandra, pictured at the top, was a student in the Molecular Biology class this past summer. Dr. Santisteban and her colleagues are currently collecting data to formally assess the Modules’ effectiveness in improving student learning outcomes.
Dr. Maria Santisteban (far right) and her research students Cora Bright and Ereny Gerges investigate the role of the Histone H2A.Z variant in the model organism yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae using a molecular genetics approach