Connected while distant: Networking CUREs across classrooms to create community and empower students

P. K. Connors, H. C. Lanier, L. P. Erb, J. Varner, L. Dizney, E. A. Flaherty, Jennifer Duggan, C. J. Yahnke, J. D. Hanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Connections, collaborations, and community are key to the success of individual scientists as well as transformative scientific advances. Intentionally building these components into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education can better prepare future generations of researchers. Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) are a new, fast-growing teaching practice in STEM that expand opportunities for undergraduate students to gain research skills. Because they engage all students in a course in an authentic research experience focused on a relevant scientific problem, CUREs provide an opportunity to foster community among students while promoting critical thinking skills and positively influencing their identities as scientists. Here, we review CUREs in the biological sciences that were developed as multi-institutional networks, and highlight the benefits gained by students and instructors through participation in a CURE network. Throughout, we introduce Squirrel-Net, a network of ecology-focused and field-based CUREs that intentionally create connections among students and instructors. Squirrel-Net CUREs can also be scaffolded into the curriculum to form connections between courses, and are easily transitioned to distance-based delivery. Future assessments of networked CUREs like Squirrel-Net will help elucidate how CURE networks create community and how a cultivated research community impacts students’ performance, perceptions of science, and sense of belonging. We hypothesize networked CUREs have the potential to create a broader sense of belonging among students and instructors alike, which could result in better science and more confident scientists.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalIntegrative & Comparative Biology
StatePublished - 2021


  • Education

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