Iowa State University

Iowa State University

Undergraduate Genetics - Learning Community

"Genetics: The Secret of Life" Learning Community

What is a Learning Community?

  • Learning communities at ISU are small groups of students with common interests who may take several courses together.

  • The aims of a discipline-based learning community are to stimulate social camaraderie and to provide an enhanced learning environment with activities to better inform participants about the chosen discipline and career opportunities in that discipline.

  • Learning community members are served by peer mentors who offer assistance with course material and provide leadership to the group.

  • Members of some learning communities live together in the same residence hall, although this option is not part of the Genetics Learning Community. Female students who wish to participate in a residence-based learning community should consider also joining WiSE (Women in Science and Engineering).

The Genetics Learning Community, Genetics: the Secret of Life

  • Incoming freshmen are automatically enrolled in the learning community and so may choose the reserved course sections and participate in group activities. A certain level of participation in out-of-class activities is required of students in GEN 110. ENGL 150 and 250 reserved sections are biologically-themed and address the nature of science. Early change-of-major and transfer students may also elect to take GEN 110 and/or join the learning community.

  • Fall courses with reserved sections for learning community members include:

    • GEN 110, Genetics Orientation
    • CHEM 177 and 177L, General Chemistry I with Laboratory
    • BIOL 211 and 211L, Principles of Biology I with Laboratory
    • ENGL 150, Critical Thinking and Communication or
    • ENGL 250, Written, Oral, Visual, and Electronic Composition
    • Note: Students in the first year Honors program take ENGL 250H instead of ENGL 250
  • Spring courses with reserved sections for learning community members include:

    • CHEM 178 and 178L, General Chemistry II with Laboratory
    • BIOL 212 and 212L, Principles of Biology II with Laboratory
    • ENGL 250, Written, Oral, Visual, and Electronic Composition if not taken in Fall
  • Book club: this component of GEN 110 helps promote group participation and discussion of how new genetics and genomics information impacts the management of human health. The current book is The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine by Francis Collins.

  • During both semesters, peer mentors provide coursework support through study groups, and also organize social and educational activities.

  • Fall activities typically include a welcome ice cream social before classes begin, a field trip to a plant genetics industry, movie night, and a trip to a pumpkin patch, corn maze, or other outdoor venue.

  • Spring activities may include research lab open houses, a visit to medical genetics at the University of Iowa, and movie night, ice skating, board game night, or other social events. During Spring 2015, all freshman Genetics students have the opportunity to participate in research with Dr. Jeff Essner funded by a grant, Freshman Research Initiative, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Students select a candidate gene likely to be involved in either cancer formation or the formation of blood vessels. They use the CRISPR/Cas9 system (site-specific mutagenesis) to make mutations in their candidate gene and observe the resulting phenotypes.

  • Service learning activities currently involve volunteering with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Students prepare by attending a presentation on cystic fibrosis by a CF health care provider.

Learning Community Information

Apply to be a Peer Mentor for 2015-16

    We will be hiring two new peer mentors
    Applications are due Friday, March 6th
    Download Peer Mentor application as a Word file.
    Peer Mentor Application (MS Word)
      Fill in and submit as either a Word file or pdf (rename file to include your last name) to: Lois Girton

    • Iman Kashmola
    • Jered Stratton
    • Marena Bartz
    • Rachel Weber

    Learning Community Activities Spring 2015

    Study Groups with Peer Mentors
      New Location: 110 Bessey
    • Monday and Wednesday: noon - 1 pm and 2:10 - 3 pm
    • Tuesday and Thursday: 11 am to noon
    Board Games and Pizza
      Co-sponsored by Genetics Club and Learning Community
      Thursday, February 26th, 6 pm, 240 Bessey
      Contact Lois Girton for details
    Field Trip to NewLink Genetics, Ames
      Friday, March 6th, 2:10 p.m.
      Limited to 10 students
      Contact Lois Girton for details
    Careers in Genetics Day at University of Iowa Friday, April 17th

Genetics: The Secret of Life LC featured on ISU HomePage

  • Lillian Howard
  • Garrett Smith
  • Iman Kashmola
  • Jered Stratton
  • Congratulations to Garrett and Iman, Exemplary Peer Mentors for 2013-14