An innovative Yale science course that encourages undergraduates to discover and study plant-associated organisms has been recognized by Science Magazine with the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Discovery.
The magazine noted that Yale University science undergraduates who take the course are three times more likely to pursue a Ph.D. than other Yale science graduates.
“Our students are staying in science,” said Carol Bascom-Slack, a Yale lecturer who helps teach the class, “Endophyte Discovery.”
The concepts behind the class and its discovery-based approach to science education are outlined in the Oct. 26 issue of the journal Science in an essay by Bascom-Slack, A. Elizabeth Arnold of the University of Arizona, and Scott A. Strobel, the Henry Ford II Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor at Yale.
Strobel created the course and took students to South American rainforests to collect and study endophytes, microbes that inhabit plant tissue. Only a small percentage of endophytes in the wild have been studied. Some endophytes are biologically active, and students have found potential sources for novel antibiotics, fuel sources, and even methods of waste disposal.
“The real success of the module may lie in each participating student realizing that they have a real possibility for making a novel discovery,’ said Melissa McCartney, editorial fellow at Science.