Fighting for the CURE: Antibiotic Discovery and Storytelling during the Time of COVID


  • Mary Ann Smith The Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Schuylkill


Students’ experiences shape their learning and understanding of content, which will allow them to make meaning with it. Science classes can provide opportunities for living experiences and acting as a mechanism for learning, but lectures and discussions, along with “cookbook laboratory experiments” lack opportunities for meaningful experiences, which causes content to become harder for students to grasp. The development and implementation of course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) open diverse student populations to research-type experiences involving content that can change their lives. This CURE program utilized antibiotic discovery to non-major, pre-nursing students during the Spring 2020 semester at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic. Before moving swiftly to emergency remote learning, the students had completed over half of their tasks, particularly isolating and purifying their samples. In order to continue this antibiotic discovery CURE, meetings went virtual and the instructor became the student hands. Organisms were characterized using standard microbiological tests, and the student experience was saved overall, though the impact of the pandemic on the research, as expressed through student reflections, influenced students’ perceptions of their learning. Though unconventional, the modified research process saved the CURE and provided students with experiences to connect their work to their lives.