Fly-CURE: A Multi-Institutional Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience in Genetics

Joyce Stamm
University of Evansville

Need: Providing undergraduate students with authentic research experiences has lasting impacts on student success and persistence in STEM careers, and can positively impact the number of underrepresented minorities pursuing STEM degrees. However, the traditional model of undergraduate research, where a small number of students work with an individual faculty member, limits the number of students who can benefit from these experiences, especially at community colleges, primarily undergraduate institutions, and minority-serving institutions. Widespread adoption of Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) can dramatically increase access of research experiences to students at diverse institutions. The Fly-CURE consortium seeks to facilitate and expand the implementation of a CURE in undergraduate genetics laboratory courses. In this semester-long CURE, students map and characterize novel mutations identified from a genetic screen for cell cycle regulators in Drosophila melanogaster.

Guiding question: We are measuring the impact of the Fly-CURE research experiences on student STEM self-belonging and self-efficacy, as well as their gains in common genetics learning objectives. At some participating institutions, multiple biology CUREs are available, so we are also determining the impact of completing multiple research experiences on student attitudes.

Outcomes: Students who participated in the Fly-CURE report statistically significant gains in science self-efficacy and sense of belonging. In addition, those students without previous research experiences reported lower scores in science self-efficacy in a pre-course survey, but have levels of science self-efficacy indistinguishable from those with previous research experiences by the end of the Fly-CURE. During the academic transition caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Fly-CURE labs were taught using virtual, hybrid, and in-person modalities. Despite the variation in delivery methods, we see no statistical differences in student-reported gains before or during the pandemic.

Broader Impacts: Since October 2020, we have added eight institutions to the Fly-CURE, for a total of fifteen institutions. We are continuing to recruit faculty at additional institutions. In the 2021-22 academic year, approximately 400 undergraduate students are participating in the Fly-CURE in a genetics course. We are currently developing new curriculum to expand the CURE to other upper-level biology courses, including bioinformatics, cellular and molecular biology, and developmental biology. Together, these efforts will extend the benefits of research experiences to a larger student population at a wide range of institutions.


Jacob Kagey, University of Detroit Mercy, Detroit, MI; Kayla Bieser, Nevada State College, Henderson, NV; Alysia Vrailas-Mortimer, Illinois State University, Normal, IL