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Using a Cross-Curricular Approach in a Molecular Diagnostics Course to Reach a Broader Student Audience

Mary McKellar: Cornell University

<div>A new laboratory course, “Molecular Diagnostics: From Lab to Viñedo,” was developed to offer a theoretical and practical introduction to the molecular diagnostic methods employed by researchers in human and veterinary medicine and plant sciences today. Over seven weeks in the fall semester, students practiced molecular diagnostic techniques in an active learning environment. Students then applied their new skills to diagnose grapevine diseases over two weeks during winter break in the Chilean Central Valley. The course utilized a cross-curricular approach to include foreign language and cultural studies. Concurrent enrollment in an appropriate level Spanish language course was required. The fall semester culminated in a cultural festival where students presented lightning talks about Chile, met Chileans from the local community and participated in Chilean cultural activities. Ninety-five percent of the students enrolled in the course majored in biology with a focus on pre-med or pre-vet studies. In addition to providing an international learning experience, the course increased student awareness of careers and research in plant and agricultural sciences by using plant diseases as a model of field study. The multi-disciplinary content of this course could serve as a novel approach for increasing the diversity of non-major students that participate in plant pathology courses.</div>