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Kiran’s Projects: OLL and MADS

Project 1: Online Learning Lab (OLL)


Problem: Introductory science classes are content overloaded and the challenges facing the average undergraduate student in his/her first introductory biology class are traditionally addressed by an instructor-student flow of interaction. The average introductory science class is comprised of an excess of 200 students which is usually subdivided into smaller sections of 20-30 for the laboratory component or for problem solving workshops, which are coordinated by graduate student adjuncts. This division and compartmentalization of a single course, fragments the content and the community of the class in a way that diminishes the learning potential of the individual undergraduate student.
Students can learn more from each other than from a teacher centered model, especially when the class population is huge and very diverse. Using asynchronous learning increases student time-on-task and can allow for interaction between students and their respective instructors and the course coordinator.

Feedback in many forms is critical for learning science, since true science education is based on hierarchical transferrable models. Meaning concepts learned in a lecture are demonstrated in a teaching laboratory and enforced and applied in assignments, requiring students to create a model of a concept, test it, apply it and build on it. At every stage of the process, verification by an expert (the instructor), is important for subsequent learning. The Online Learning Lab proposes a means where student interaction and community is fostered can improve the introductory science course in many ways.

The OLL is a modular online interface that facilitates interaction for about 20-30 individuals. It is private and allows some hierarchical moderation but is not centered around it. It’s purpose to foster instructor moderated but student centered communal and collaborative learning in laboratory/workshop sub-sections of a much larger lecture class.

Joshua is a first generation american. He is registered for predominantly science classes. This is his first semester starting the premed track at CCNY. His is a frequent user of social networking sites like facebook and tumblr and so he is familiar with blogging but he has never used an online interface for an academic purpose. This is his first time experiencing a course with 200 registered students.

Yoon hee  is a post-bacc. student who is taking biology classes with the intention to apply to graduate school for a professional degree in biotechnology. She has used blackboard and is very familiar with a teacher centered facilitative online component of a large lecture class.

Abhinav is a 3rd year doctoral student of neuroscience. It is his 2nd semester teaching an undergraduate lab section. He is currently working on taking his 2nd exam and juggles grading, office hours and bench lab work and analysis. He tutors highschool students in math and science on weekends. He has a facebook account which he uses frequently to plan events with his friends and to keep in touch with his estranged relatives and friends from his college years.

Use case scenario
Introductory Science Course Laboratory Platform: An interactive Lab manual that is not restricted to providing experimental protocol for each class activity, but also facilitates instructor student interaction and community building within individual laboratory/recitation/workshop sections of a larger science lecture class (population 200 students). The instructors,  in most cases graduate students or teaching adjuncts, can set up the platform for management of their sections. Students can collaborate on group projects such as presentations and experiments, as well as conduct peer review of their reports, as is common practice in many laboratory classes. This platform should enable student-student interaction beyond the class meeting which is particularly useful in science classes where there is emphasis on assigned problem solving.
Additionally, instructors can set up online quizzes as well as post extra material in a central location, sorted chronologically for each class meeting for student use.

Design and testing of complete version
It can be built on wordpress, allowing student blogging and comment entries with comment press and a buddy press install for instructors. Extensive styling may be required to create an optimally functional layout for students and instructors. Survey tools like or can be used for the online quiz generation/activity. Ideally, embedded media and quick-preview of documents and webpages (like dynamic drive) would be used to avoid navigation away from the platform during student use.

—All material should be permissible for exporting to instructors as well as students if necessary.

Time assessment of complete version
8 months

Method for MVP and proof of viability
Do a wordpress install with comment press and buddy press and configure using a basic theme to style on my own hosting space. (happening at present)

Test amongst my fellow lab instructors.

Time assessment for MVP
3 months


Project 2: Mammalian Auditory Development Scheme (MADS)

Introduction/ abstract:

When studying many aspects of mammalian neural development, rodent models are used because of their  conserved fundamental anatomy. In auditory brain research, they provide the additional advantage of altricial hearing where the animal has a delayed onset of hearing function which happens postnatally but still follows a conserved physiological pattern. There are two aspects to studying this development: central (brain) and peripheral (ear) development and the coordination in between. An integral central component involves the growth of multiple specialized centers in the brainstem, called the superior olivary complex (SOC), which consist of a melange of dedicated neuronal and glial cells and the extensions of each which connect, or wire the whole system together. Independently of this, peripheral nerves from the sense organ within the ear (the organ of Corti in the cochlea) form the auditory nerve which extends into the brainstem and connects to the SOC, essentially completing the circuit by a conserved time point in a rodent’s life (two weeks old).

Part of my research for my thesis investigates the changes in volume of different nuclei in the SOC during this developmental stage in rats and mice, and also looks at the relationship of the onset of hearing function with the changes in the SOC anatomy. We have shown that actively proliferating cells within the SOC nuclei lose their capacity to divide and multiply after 15 days postnatally and have identified the type of cells which contribute most heavily to the changes in volume, as glial cells. Additionally, we are investigating the changes in myelination (myelin is the insulation with surrounds individual nerve cell extensions, and drastically improves electrical conduction) in the extending auditory nerve innervating the first nucleus in the SOC, the Medial Nucleus of the Trapezoid Body (MNTB). The changes in myelin patterning including its density and maturity is dependent on glial cells of both compartments of the system, central and peripheral.

In our lab we have generated micro CT scans of the gross anatomical changes taking place in the peripheral structures as well as done three-dimensional reconstruction of SOC nuclei, creating snapshots day by day of the changing volume as the animal tends to auditory maturity. I would like to include a cohesive multimedia component to my thesis visually illustrating the synchrony of what I have described above.

Alison Caine is a graduate student of the biology studying evolutionarily conserved patterns of physiology related to hearing in vertebrates. Her interest revolves around assessing the changing structure of the peripheral organs of the auditory system across ancestrally related vertebrates from mammals to amphibia and reptiles and the correlation with unique function per species.

Dr. Luis Carnaval conducts a course in the speech and hearing sciences at Washington State University. His work investigates the effect on hearing development and auditory processing, of multiple congenital disorders of the nervous system.

Use case scenario
Anyone studying/researching/learning about auditory development in the brain can use this since it will be much more cognitively accessible in an illustrated visual dynamic form than as independent data from a series of experiments.

Design and testing of complete version
Create a narrated animation using accurate media from experiments (micro CT scans, 3D models and confocal microscope images and volumes) that illustrates my thesis work in the context of established anatomical and physiological knowledge on auditory development in mammals.

This will require extensive knowledge of animation design and finding a way to interface the many forms of scientific media used to accurately depict the results of the experiments  in which they were used by using the proprietary software in which they were generated

Time assessment of complete version
3 years.

Method for MVP and proof of viability
Analyze the media the lab has generated from experiments to display in a narrated animation which provides a visual estimation of the events of development. This will require learning to create and modify animations in something like Blender, which can do to-scale animations and incorporate audio for the narration and text for annotation.

Time assessment for MVP
1 year

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