This article reports on a one-semester Advanced Cell Biology course that endeavors to bridge the gap between gaining basic textbook knowledge about cell biology and learning to think and work as a researcher. The key elements of this course are 1) learning to work with primary articles in order to get acquainted with the field of choice, to learn scientific reasoning, and to identify gaps in our current knowledge that represent opportunities for further research; 2) formulating a research project with fellow students; 3) gaining thorough knowledge of relevant methodology and technologies used within the field of cell biology; 4) developing cooperation and leadership skills; and 5) presenting and defending research projects before a jury of experts. The course activities were student centered and focused on designing a genuine research program. Our 5-yr experience with this course demonstrates that 1) undergraduate students are capable of delivering high-quality research designs that meet professional standards, and 2) the authenticity of the learning environment in this course strongly engages students to become self-directed and critical thinkers. We hope to provide colleagues with an example of a course that encourages and stimulates students to develop essential research thinking skills.
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