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Undergraduate Educator Network Webinars

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The Undergraduate Education Subcommittee has as a strategic goal of enhancing undergraduate education in toxicology by providing high-quality resources for teaching and professional development of undergraduate educators. The Subcommittee sponsors these Undergraduate Educator Network Webinars on a variety of teaching-related topics to provide faculty development opportunities for undergraduate educators and those who are considering undergraduate education as this a career path.

Links to the previously recorded webinars are accessible below.

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Adopting the Undergraduate Toxicology Learning Framework—April 29, 2019

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides


Dr. Joshua Gray, US Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT
Dr. Chris Perdan Curran, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY


The Society of Toxicology has adopted a Learning Framework for undergraduate toxicology courses. This webinar will discuss how to use this new tool to (re)design your toxicology course to align with the Vision and Change framework for undergraduate biology education. This Framework is designed around five Core Concepts: Evolution; Biological Information; Risk and Risk Management; Systems Toxicology; and Pathways and Transformations for Energy and Matter. Underlying Toxicology Concepts and Learning Objectives are used to emphasize particular aspects of toxicology related to the type of course being offered, such as environmental toxicology or pharmacological toxicology. Case studies and example learning objectives are then used to provide specific examples explaining the Toxicology Concepts and Learning Objectives.

Dr. Joshua Gray described the use of the Learning Framework to modify an existing Toxicology course, while Dr. Chris Curran discussed the use of the Learning Framework to adapt toxicology concepts in other courses. The relationship of the Toxicology Learning Framework to other courses described at Course Source will also be discussed. Educators shared their own ideas and asked questions related to their course development and instruction.

The SOT Toxicology Learning Framework will be included among those provided for other life science courses at CourseSource and will be available for faculty across institutions and disciplines. Additional information about the development and content of the Learning Framework is found in an upcoming article in Toxicological Sciences.


  1. To familiarize the audience with Vision and Change, CourseSource, and other teaching resources related to the Undergraduate Toxicology Learning Framework.
  2. To demonstrate how the Undergraduate Toxicology Learning Framework can be used to design courses.
Don’t Sweat It…Three Dry Labs for Undergraduate Toxicology Programs—January 11, 2018

Webinar Recording

Presentation Slides and Curriculum Links are with each presentation description below.

Moderator: Dr. Gunnar Kwakye, Oberlin College, Oberlin OH


Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, Ohio
Dr. Woon-Kai Low, St. John's University, Jamaica, NY
Dr. David Reif, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC


Data literacy is an important skill for any student in STEM. This webinar will present three undergraduate-focused modules that build data literacy from different genres: statistics, informatics, and coding. The first module will focus on how to present introductory statistical concepts in a classroom or laboratory setting and provide examples as to how to assess learning thereof. In the second module, informatics will be addressed from the perspective of protein structure through homology modeling utilizing free bioinformatics databases and tools.

Lastly, our third module covers the topic of how to present a practical coding course to students with no previous experience. These modules, ultimately, could be used independently or together in any undergraduate setting, but especially in a toxicology course.


  1. To provide teaching resources for undergraduate educators
  2. To provide examples of short classroom or laboratory experiences involving data access and analysis that could be incorporated into undergraduate toxicology classes and related courses


Is This Significant? Teaching Undergraduates to Apply Statistical Analysis to Messy Data

Vanessa Fitsanakis, Northeastern Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, OH

Presentation Slides

Curriculum materials
ANOVA Dataset with Instructions
Additional Datasets for Toxicology Labs
Assignment Instructions for Dose-Response Curves
Lab Report Rubric
Student Submission
Instructor Comments on Student Submission

Many undergraduate curricula require students to take a statistics or biostatistics course. It is often the case, however, that these classes do use biomedical or biological data sets, and that the data sets are so stylized that research students don’t know how to assess the data they are generating in research labs. One way to address this issue is to provide dry lab time for upper-division courses where it can be challenging to develop appropriate wet labs. In this presentation, faculty will learn about ways to introduce statistical concepts, present actual ‘real-life’ data, design homework, and develop an exam that can be used for a four- to six-week dry lab section. Information will include differences between standard deviation and standard error of the mean, t-tests versus ANOVA, data normalization, and linear regression. Examples that have been used in a senior-level “Mammalian Toxicology” course will be provided, and common pitfalls to avoid will be addressed. At the end of the session, participants will be able to set up modules tailored for their unique courses.

Introduction to Protein Structure through Homology Modeling Using Bioinformatics

Woon-Kai Low, St. John's University, Jamaica, NY

Presentation Slides

A teaching lab exercise has been designed to introduce students to the basic principles of protein structure through the use of bioinformatics databases and online bioinformatics tools. The article, Ajees, A.A., et al. (2012) “Structure of an As(III) S-Adenosylmethionine Methyltransferase: Insights into the Mechanism of Arsenic Biotransformation” Biochemistry 51:5476, is used as a basis for student exercises. Students explore the article and the structures as deposited from the article in RCSB Protein Data Bank to gain insight into primary, secondary and tertiary structure of proteins. The concept of homology modeling of proteins is explored by producing Clustal alignments of AS3MT proteins from various species. Finally, the concepts of the “unity of life” and biological diversity are explored through BLAST searches from NCBI.

How to Present a Code-Based Course to Students with No Previous Coding Experience

David Reif, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

Presentation Slides

I will describe the development of a semester-long, introductory bioinformatics course that is aimed at students interested in applications in the biological and environmental health sciences. It is taught as a practical coding course, where students learn to develop their own code (in the R language) for solving problems in both group and individual settings. The course provides a foundation in biological computing that includes command line interfaces, reformatting data, creating and editing graphics, automating analyses and scripting. Although it is numbered as an undergraduate course, the enrollment has consistently included a high percentage of graduate and post-doctoral students, which indicates that coding skills are still lacking in many curricula relevant to training future members of the Society of Toxicology.

Using Non-Vertebrate Model Organisms to Illustrate Toxicology Principles in Undergraduate Lab Classes—October 20, 2016

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides

Moderator: Dr. Kristie L. Willett, University of Mississippi, University, MS


Dr. Chris Curran, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY
Dr. Mindy F. Reynolds, Washington College, Chestertown, MD
Dr. Daniel Williams, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC


This webinar will provide toxicology educators with three examples of how to use non-vertebrate model organisms in undergraduate laboratory exercises to teach toxicology concepts. The three examples represent different formats (short, multi-week or semester-long laboratories), and thus, they can be broadly incorporated into existing or new courses as needed by webinar attendees. All the laboratories have been routinely conducted by the instructors of the webinar, so attendees will have the opportunity to ask technical and logistical questions of the presenters during the webinar. Finally, teaching protocols for these activities will be available in the SOT Undergraduate Curriculum Resource Collection.


  1. To provide teaching resources for undergraduate educators
  2. To provide toxicology examples of short, multi-week, and semester-long laboratory experiences that could be incorporated into undergraduate toxicology classes and related courses
  3. To illustrate the utility of non-vertebrates as valid models for undergraduate teaching labs

Planaria on the NON-Cutting Edge of Undergraduate Toxicology Education

Chris Curran, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY

The flatworm Planaria is best known for regeneration experiments during which students discover differences in the head and tail region that regrow after being cut in half. However, the easy to grow and inexpensive flatworm also has an important place in teaching toxicology. This talk will describe single lab period exercises that can be used to uncover neurotoxic effects of multiple compounds, including caffeine and nicotine. The labs allow students to uncover dose-response effects and are flexible enough that students can design their own experiments if desired. The experiments and low expense make it easier to get a large sample size for data analysis. This lab was developed for an evolutionary neurobiology course, but can be adapted for first-year through upper division courses and even science outreach activities.

Yeast Toxicogenomics: A Multi-Week Undergraduate Lab

Mindy F. Reynolds, Washington College, Chestertown, MD

This is a multi-week lab which introduces students to toxicogenomics; a rapidly developing discipline that allows for screening multiple genes simultaneously and can offer some insights into potential adverse outcomes. This particular lab utilizes different yeast knockouts providing a cost effective experimental model which requires minimal instructor experience. Throughout the lab, students are exposed to experimental design, data analysis, and critical thinking skills. During the first week, students are introduced to yeast as a toxicological model and use the Saccharomyces Genome Database to research individual genes. For the next two weeks, students culture and expose wildtype and knockout strains to designated toxicants. Each group of students determines the response of their yeast cultures to the toxicants and calculates the number of viable cells in the original culture. In the last lab, groups present their data and as a class the students piece together the information to formulate a hypothesis for the roles of individual genes in the toxicological response to various toxicants.

Using C. elegans to Model Toxicology Research in an Undergraduate Lab

Daniel Williams, Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC

The nematode C. elegans is a well-established genetic model organism that can be used to assess the effects of toxins at the organismal and cellular level. In addition, because worm cultivation is easy and inexpensive, they are an ideal system for undergraduate teaching labs. This talk will present an established upper-division laboratory course in which students use worms to perform independent research projects over the course of an entire semester. This course incorporates aspects of research, such as project proposal, experimental design, and formal presentation of results, which are essential skills of practicing scientists. Initially, the entire class collectively learns basics of worm husbandry with the expectation that students will independently maintain a worm culture and have healthy well-fed animals ready for experimentation. In addition, the class is instructed how to access biomedical journals and students independently write a mock grant proposal with specific aims that are provided by the instructor. The student proposals form the basis of experiments they independently perform throughout the semester, followed by written and oral presentation of their results. Although students work on their own independent project there are common aspects of each project, such as phenotypic characterization and end-point analysis, which promote cooperation and collaboration.

Using Fish to Illustrate Toxicology Principles in Undergraduate Lab Classes—December 15, 2015

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides

Moderator: Dr. Kristie L. Willett, University of Mississippi, University, MS
            Dr. Larissa Williams, Bates College, Lewiston, ME
            Dr. Mindy F. Reynolds, Washington College, Chestertown, MD
            Dr. Wade H. Powell, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH

This webinar will provide toxicology educators with three examples of how to use fish in undergraduate-focused laboratory exercises to teach toxicology concepts. These three examples will cover laboratories of various lengths, including short, multi-week, and semester-long examples.  Thus, they can be broadly incorporated into existing or new courses as needed by webinar attendees. All the laboratories have been routinely conducted by the speakers, so attendees will have the opportunity to ask technical and logistical questions of the presenters during the webinar. Finally, teaching protocols for these activities will be available in the SOT Undergraduate Curriculum Resource Collection.


Viewers will be able to: 

  1. Adopt up to three examples of the use of fish (zebrafish and other types of fish) as model systems for undergraduate laboratory exercises focusing on toxicology.  
  2. Examine three examples of laboratory exercises that apply the process of science, quantitative reasoning (through dose-response relationships), evolution, and structure and function (through embryological development).  

Use of a Behavioral Assay to Determine the Chronic Effects of Chlorpyrifos on Developing Zebrafish
Larissa Williams, Bates College, Lewiston, ME

This talk will describe how to employ a short-term lab experiment on chronic pesticide exposure in developing zebrafish using microscopy. This lab would be appropriate for use in an introductory biology course, toxicology course, or neurobiology course. To begin, zebrafish embryos are reared in the lab and chronically dosed with the neurotoxic insecticide, chlorpyrifos, from 10 hours post fertilization until observation (up to five days post fertilization). To introduce students to development and behavior, differences between two, three, and four day old embryos are determined using light microscopy. Students choose which age they would like to test the behavior in, and then move those fish to small gridded cylinders under a microscope. Each fish is tested for five minutes and the number of crossings over the grid is noted. If a microscope camera is available, the behavior can also be recorded and analyzed at a later date. Analyses of crossings versus minutes can be plotted, whereby the effect of the chemical dose can be determined across age. Following the lab, students can write a lab report, a short summary, a results section, or present their data orally to the class. 

Williams: Zebrafish Lab Protocol

A Multi-week Toxicological Study using Zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a Model
Mindy F. Reynolds, Washington College, Chestertown, MD

This is a multi-week lab which introduces students to concepts toxicology while also incorporating experimental design and data analysis. More importantly, this lab is designed for instructors with little experience with zebrafish and does not require major equipment of experimental costs. Students first examine normal development of zebrafish and compare it to notochord length, dry weight, and behavior of zebrafish exposed to nicotine, ethanol, and retinoic acid. The students also collect LC50 data. The quantitative data is evaluated for statistically significant differences between treatments. Finally, students write a research proposal for an independent experiment in which they expose embryos to a toxicant of their choice, carry out the experiment, and present their findings. 

Reynolds: Zebrafish Lab Protocol

Molecular Biology Lab Class as a Vehicle for Teaching Environmental Toxicology:  Cloning and Expression Analysis of CYP1A from Diverse Fish Species
Wade H. Powell, Kenyon College, Gambier, OH

Students in this intermediate molecular biology lab course use degenerate primers and RT-PCR to clone partial cDNAs encoding CYP1A from local fish collected in the field or purchased from a tackle shop. The sequence can be used to study molecular evolution (phylogenies and gene duplication events) as well as to examine mRNA expression in animals with different contaminant exposure histories.  Importantly, all species examined so far have no prior CYP1A entry in GenBank, so the class isolates a novel cDNA sequence each semester. This semester-long, course-based research activity trains students in broadly useful molecular biology techniques while instilling an appreciation for their application to environmental toxicology.

Powell: Poster on Molecular Biology Lab

Using Open Source Biological Pathway Databases for Education and Discovery—June 4, 2015

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides

Presenter: Marc Gillespie, St. John’s University, Jamaica, NY

Sifting through the results of expression or other data rich analyses poses a daunting challenge to experienced and novel researchers alike. Numerous methods exist, all sharing the common theme of grouping the results in such a way as to assist the researcher in finding the underlying patterns in the data. Biological pathway knowledge bases provide a platform for the identification of pathways that are represented within the experimental data. Reactome is an open-source, open access, manually curated and peer-reviewed pathway database. Pathway annotations are authored by expert biologists, in collaboration with Reactome editorial staff and cross-referenced to many bioinformatic databases. Pathway and Expression Analysis tools analyze user supplied data sets permitting ID mapping, pathway assignment, and over-representation analysis. The rich detail of the Reactome data set combined with accessible analysis tools present toxicologists with a easy to use computational pipeline for biological pathway analysis.

Classroom Utility

Within the classroom pathway knowledge bases can function as a biology textbook. Faculty and Students can select specific pathways that impact a segment of their material and highlight the biological mechanisms that are in play within this segment. Imagine a classroom presentation describing DNA damage that highlights the molecular steps of DNA Repair. Students can walk themselves through each type of DNA Repair, examining the differences between mismatch and base excision repair mechanisms. Students and Faculty examining the steps are immediately connected to the literature describing the experiments that support each step of the pathway, molecular structure data, and expression data. Each step of the pathway includes a text summation, as well as possible links to relevant disease states affecting that particular step.

Webinar Objectives and Educational Goals

  1. Analyze expression datasets and other data rich experimental results.
    1. Faculty and Students can use topic specific datasets to highlight molecular function and functional interconnections.
  2. Describe the methods that are used for biological pathway analysis.
    1. Multiple methods are available. What are they, how are they used?
    2. How might some of these methods be integrated into a class, or independent assignment activity to introduce or reinforce classroom topics?
  3. Identify pathways that are over-represented within experimental data sets.
    1. What is pathway over-representation? What are the pValues assigned to these matches telling me?
    2. What can I learn from this analysis?
  4. Use Reactome, an open-source, open access, manually-curated and peer-reviewed pathway knowledgebase.
    1. Practicing all of these objectives within the Reactome framework.
  5. Describe ID mapping, pathway assignment and over-representation analysis and include these analysis as modules within a classroom setting.
    1. Best practices for summarizing pathway data analysis for students and faculty.
    2. Common pitfalls


Academic Service Learning in an Undergraduate Pharmacology Course—May 13, 2015

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides

Presenter: Blase Billack, St. John’s University, Jamaica, NY

Academic service learning (AS-L) is a type of active learning in which a student demonstrates knowledge and understanding of course objectives through service to the community and reflection. The activity directs the student to “know by doing.” In this manner, the student, in effect, becomes a “teacher” during the service project. AS-L differs from community service in that the service portion of AS-L is a pedagogical component of the course, demonstrating in a tangible way to the student that he or she has mastered one or more of the course concepts well enough to effectively pass them on to another. The reflection component allows the student to understand his or her strengths and allows the student to remediate learning deficiencies that may have been exposed during the service component. All in all, AS-L is a powerful and achievable way of engaging students in the classroom and giving them ownership of the coursework knowledge.

Learning Objectives:

  • Define academic service learning (AS-L).
  • Understand how AS-L differs from community outreach or community service.
  • Explain how AS-L can be incorporated into an undergraduate toxicology course.
  • Describe the challenges and rewards associated with incorporating AS-L into a course.
  • Outline the types of administrative support that can enhance the AS-L experience.


  1. Introduction to AS-L as a mode of active learning
  2. Description of the AS-L project carried out in my Intro Pharmacology Course
  3. Successes and potential pitfalls of the project
  4. Student reflections
  5. Ways of improving the project in the future
  6. Summary
Evidence-Based Instructional Practices in Undergraduate Science Courses—April 8, 2015

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides

Presenter: Bethany Bowling, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, KY
Moderator: Joshua Gray, United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT

Participants will learn the basics of effective instructional practices, reflect on their own teaching, and identify their needs for the classroom. A number of resources to assist in incorporating evidence-based practices will be provided.

This webinar is appropriate for anyone teaching an undergraduate science course who is interested in improving student learning or those who are planning to teach undergraduate courses.

Pre-Webinar Assignment

Faculty will reflect on their teaching using the Teaching Practices Inventory and complete a pre-webinar questionnaire.

Please fill out the inventory prior to attendance to the webinar, no later than Monday, April 6.  Discussions in the webinar will be guided in part by answers on these documents.  If you cannot fill out the inventory, you can still attend the webinar.

Learning Outcomes

Participants will be able to:

  • list qualities of evidence-based instructional practices
  • measure their use of evidence-based instructional practices
  • identify areas within their teaching to incorporate evidence-based instructional practices
  • find resources for incorporating evidenced-based instructional practices

Webinar Structure

  • Overview of characteristics of evidence-based teaching practices (based on pre-questionnaire findings, including experience, and interests of participants)
  • Discussion of Teaching Practices Inventory and reflection on our own teaching
  • Two examples: Course-based research involving bioinformatics a mid-level genetics course and problem-based team learning in an introductory biology course


Freeman, Scott, et al. “Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2014): 201319030.

National Research Council. Reaching Students: What Research Says About Effective Instruction in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2015.

National Research Council. Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012.

The Use of Technology to Teach Toxicology and Related Disciplines—June 23, 2014

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides

The third webinar in the 2013–2014 Undergraduate Educator Network series focused on the use of technology in and outside of the classroom. The webinar was moderated by Joshua Gray, US Coast Guard Academy.

Angela Slitt discussed the “Use of Twitter® to Engage Freshman in Learning Current Toxicology Concepts and Topics.” Dr. Slitt, University of Rhode Island, recently taught a “Grand Challenges” course designed to engage college freshman in the problems of toxicology and how to communicate toxicology to the broader community. She shared her experiences using Twitter® as a tool for communicating scientific knowledge.

Christine Curran of Northern Kentucky University focused on “Rapid Response Systems: From High-Tech to No-Tech.” She covered the logistics, costs, and implementation of response systems based on experience in her courses. She also reviewed the use of quizzing technologies common on Blackboard and other course content software packages.

Emily Notch of Dartmouth and Western New England University highlighted “Free Polling Software to Engage Students and Assess in Class Group Activities.” She featured two free platforms, Socrative and Poll Everywhere, which she has used in her classes and at the In Vitro Luncheon at the 2014 SOT Annual Meeting. She briefly touched on general polling to address student comprehension of material and focused more on some of the aspects of the free software that are pros and cons for choosing either one. She also highlighted how she used the exit polling for post-POGIL group activities.

Education and Enrichment Activities for Educators—January 28, 2014

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides

Presenter: Sue Ford, St. John’s University, Jamaica, NY
Moderator: Joshua Gray, United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT
Panelists: Pamela Hanson, Birmingham-Southern College, Birmingham, AL; and Diane Hardej, St. John’s University, Jamaica, NY

National undergraduate biology education initiatives challenge faculty to thoughtfully design courses to increase biological literacy via student-centered learning, incorporate more research experiences, expand interdisciplinary content, adopt pedagogically-sound practices, evaluate and improve approaches, and cultivate these strategies across the campus. This is indeed a challenge! This webinar will provide information about professional development opportunities so that you can enrich your teaching portfolio.

The presenter will describe the many resources available whether you are a junior faculty member starting a teaching career or senior faculty striving for updated pedagogy. Online communities such as ToXchange and PULSE provide the opportunity to exchange ideas with faculty in other institutions. The National Academies, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and professional societies sponsor meetings and teaching institutes across the country to disseminate information about successful new teaching strategies to increase learning outcomes. In addition, there are several journals and online resources devoted to teaching in science disciplines that are valuable resources for educators.

Having It All: Teaching, Research, and Service at a Small Liberal Arts College:
A Toxicologist’s Perspective—November 19, 2013

Webinar Recording | Presentation Slides | Responses of Panelists to Questions

Presenter: Larissa M. Williams, Associate Professor, Bates College, Lewiston, ME
Moderator: Joshua Gray, Associate Professor, United States Coast Guard Academy, New London, CT
Panelists: Eli Hestermann, Assistant Professor, Furman University, Greenville, SC;
Eva Oberdorster, Senior Lecturer, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX; and
Gregory Hall, Associate Professor, United States Coast Guard Academy and Accreditation Liaison, New London, CT, Officer, New England Association of Schools and Colleges


  1. Describe the liberal arts undergraduate teaching and research model
  2. Outline the (varied) expectations of the liberal arts faculty 
  3. Delineate the role of toxicologists within this framework and SOT resources to meet this end

In the United States, small liberal arts schools strive to provide a broad, comprehensive, and residential educational experience to undergraduate students. The job of an academic at a small liberal arts school is to be an excellent teacher-scholar, who excels in both the classroom and laboratory. Additionally, due to the close nature of the college community, service is also an important component. Dr. Williams discussed the challenges and opportunities that exist at a small liberal arts school, especially as it relates to weaving toxicology into both the classroom and laboratory. The panelists elaborated on some of these as well as explaining unique aspects for each.