Lopatto D, Rosenwald AG, DiAngelo JR, et al. Facilitating Growth through Frustration: Using Genomics Research in a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience. J Microbiol Biol Educ. 2020;21(1):21.1.6. Published 2020 Feb 28. doi:10.1128/jmbe.v21i1.2005
A hallmark of the research experience is encountering difficulty and working through those challenges to achieve success. This ability is essential to being a successful scientist, but replicating such challenges in a teaching setting can be difficult. The Genomics Education Partnership (GEP) is a consortium of faculty who engage their students in a genomics Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE). Students participate in genome annotation, generating gene models using multiple lines of experimental evidence. Our observations suggested that the students’ learning experience is continuous and recursive, frequently beginning with frustration but eventually leading to success as they come up with defendable gene models. In order to explore our “formative frustration” hypothesis, we gathered data from faculty via a survey, and from students via both a general survey and a set of student focus groups. Upon analyzing these data, we found that all three datasets mentioned frustration and struggle, as well as learning and better understanding of the scientific process. Bioinformatics projects are particularly well suited to the process of iteration and refinement because iterations can be performed quickly and are inexpensive in both time and money. Based on these findings, we suggest that a dynamic of “formative frustration” is an important aspect for a successful CURE.