NSCI 120: Introductory Scientific Research Challenges
This course offers first-year students an opportunity to participate in authentic research experiences with faculty and graduate students in such areas as global health diagnostics, drosophila genetics, molecular biology, chemistry and nanotechnology. The NSCI 120 course is broken into two components: lecture/practicum and outside research activities. Students are expected to spend 8 - 10 hours per week engaged in open-ended research projects that have been specifically designed for NSCI 120 student teams. They learn how to develop a problem statement, a hypothesis and the laboratory techniques necessary to conduct the research. In the course of the semester, the student teams learn that real science often does not take the direction that was originally expected and how to refine their hypotheses based on the data collected. Students write a scientific paper on their work and present their work to their mentors and peers at the end of the semester.
Benefits of enrolling in NSCI 120 include:
- Learn real laboratory skills
- Network with Rice faculty and graduate students
- Learn how to read scientific literature
- Learn how to write scientifically
- Gain experience and confidence in your ability to present your work
- Biofilm disruption (Li, Chemical and Biological Engineering)
- Food chemistry (Tran, Chemistry; Chris Shepherd, Underbelly)
- Nanoparticle-based biodetection (Weigum, Texas State University)
- Protein crystallography (Phillips, Biosciences)
- Understanding drosophila burrowing behavior (Beckingham, Biosciences)
Food chemistry project: A closer look
Chris Shepherd, the James Beard award-winning chef and owner of Houston restaurant Underbelly, has developed an informal partnership with Rice students learning practical chemistry and microbiology while they help his operation refine its approach to turning what would otherwise be wasted produce into useful products. NSCI 120 students were tasked with quantifying chemical processes and identifying the microbes present in the production of vinegars and, in turn, shrubs (aka drinking vinegars) from produce that can't be used fresh. The team of students developed a way for the restaurant to monitor the amount of beneficial bacteria present in vinegar production. As a result of the collaboration, Shepherd hired NSCI 120 student Tareck Haykal for the summer to help with their vinegar production.