Our work connects students to cutting-edge research

Since 2006, our team has partnered with research scientists, informaticians, game developers, science media experts, teachers, school districts, and education researchers to create a diversity of programs and resources aimed at inspiring and preparing a new generation of science innovators.

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Professional Development & Course-Based Research

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Student Internships

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Residential Research Institutes

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Public Engagement

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Exploring the interdisciplinary nature of science and the important interplay between basic neurobiology research and clinical neuroscience

NeuroLab adopts a phenomena-based, storyline approach to the design of a new NGSS-aligned curriculum for high school course integration.  In collaboration with high school science teachers, our team is currently developing a two-part unit on heredity and molecular genetics that enables high school students to explore an unusual movement disorder affecting families from around the world. Throughout the unit, students make observations and formulate questions that drive investigations aimed at uncovering the name and cause of this disorder.

In the first half of this unit, students figure out that a heritable impairment in voluntary movement affects the interaction of two major body systems. They also discover that families exhibiting the disorder harbor mutations in genes that code for proteins with well-studied roles in the development and assembly of the central nervous system. In the second half of this unit, students examine a body of research conducted in model organisms over the last several decades to explore the function of these proteins during embryonic development. They then use this information to figure out how impairments in protein structure and function that are brought about by heritable mutations can produce anatomical and neurophysiological defects that explain the movement disorder.

The culminating segment of this learning exploration will engage students in the use of groundbreaking molecular tools to visualize neurons as they form connections with target cells during embryonic development. These molecular visualization tools highlight how neuronal trajectories affecting movement can be traced and studied during nervous system assembly.

An important note about our work:

Apart from the scientific research that students undertake as part of their learning experience, our programs for teachers and students include an education research strand that is aimed at informing the educational community about new strategies that produce positive outcomes relevant to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) teaching and learning. Accordingly, CMB’s programs undergo rigorous evaluation by independent, nationally recognized experts to examine the extent to which they meet their teaching and learning goals.

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Barcoding Life’s Matrix

Paving the way for students to join a global alliance of scientists in their efforts to illuminate Earth’s biodiversity

Established in 2009, the Barcoding Life’s Matrix program is a teacher professional development and classroom research experience that organizes life science teaching and learning around student participation in the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project. iBOL is a global biodiversity genomics initiative that is constructing a digital genetic registry of Earth’s eukaryotic life using a DNA barcode system. At the core of this system are short, standardized genomic sequences that distinguish species groups in much the same way that machine-readable barcodes uniquely identify merchandise and products. Students who participate in this 16-lesson experience help build this global barcode registry by assembling digital data records for target specimens. These records link genetic barcodes that students generate in the high school lab with taxonomic, geospatial, and other forms of data obtained in the field. Students then assemble and share their data records with the broader scientific community through a customized interface to the Barcode of Life Data System, a cloud-based informatics platform that was designed to store, analyze, and apply barcode data to real-world problems affecting Earth's vanishing biodiversity.

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Publications emerging from the Barcoding Life’s Matrix program

Translating biodiversity genomics into the high school classroom and lab

DNA Barcoding in diverse educational settings

Student Internships

Conducting guided research in a wide diversity of science disciplines

Our internships enable high school students to work alongside scientists on locally relevant projects in a wide array of research areas.  Over the past several years, student interns working under the supervision of CMB scientists have contributed to studies of environmental water quality in our coastal watershed, provided resources to examine the relationship between otolith shape and various ecological/biogeographic factors in rockfishes, conducted ultrastructural analyses of a local hydrocoral species, and participated in a statewide marine biotoxin monitoring program hosted by the California Department of Public Health. Student interns also support our longstanding DNA barcoding program by collecting and imaging local target specimens, processing specimen tissue, and assembling laboratory supplies for distribution to partner schools around the country.

Internships are offered on an invitation-only basis to students enrolled at partner high schools in the Ventura Unified School District and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Contact our staff for current internship opportunities.

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Residential Research Institutes for Students

Learning what scientists do and how they do it

Hosted at the CMB lab, residential research institutes provide high school students with a rare glimpse into the daily practice of science and a unique opportunity to experience how research is conducted in real-world scientific settings. These fast-paced and intensely focused 10-day experiences unfold under the supervision of Ph.D.- level scientists within an academically challenging but nurturing environment that highlights the collaborative nature of science inquiry and the connections that exist among scientific disciplines.

Each institute is designed to emulate a graduate-level learning environment where students participate in engaging and interactive discussions with CMB scientists and visiting researchers, learn advanced life science concepts and methods that erode disciplinary boundaries, contribute real data to ongoing scientific projects, and communicate their research and its significance in a public forum. Our primary goal is to help students envision their future roles and responsibilities as members of a global scientific social network that is dedicated to improving human and planetary health.

Admission is highly competitive and currently limited to 11th and 12th grade high school students. A maximum of 10 students are accepted for enrollment in each institute. The selection of applicants is based on a variety of criteria, including evidence of leadership, a demonstrated commitment to community service, extracurricular involvement, academic performance, prior coursework, a thoughtfully constructed and well-developed essay, and strong letters of recommendation. Click the button below for available institute dates, research descriptions, and enrollment details.

Institute Dates

Published description of a residential research institute that bridges developmental neuroscience and comparative functional genomics.

Public Engagement

Bringing science to our waterfront community

In partnership with the Ventura Port District, our team has developed a number of programs to bring the excitement and fascination of science to broader and more diverse audiences.

For example, the SmartTalk program consists of free public presentations that cover locally relevant, marine-centered topics ranging from rockfish life history, ecology, and biodiversity to marine-derived fluorescent proteins and their pivotal role in revolutionizing the way scientists study biological systems.

As a key partner on two consecutive NOAA SeaGrant awards, CMB also launched a multifaceted public engagement program to educate marine stakeholders, students, and other members of the general public about a new, large-scale mussel aquaculture project (the Ventura Shellfish Enterprise) that is currently being developed as a model for the sustainable production of seafood. The program introduced state-of-the-art shellfish cultivation technologies and a number of science-related topics, including global food security, the biology and development of bivalve shellfish, and the impact of marine biotoxins on human neurophysiology and public health.

Science Gateways

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Interactive Media

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Mobile Utility App

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Instructional Supports

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Barcode of Life Student Data Portal (BOLD-SDP)

BOLD-SDP connects students to a multinational biodiversity genomics initiative

BOLD-SDP is a customized, cloud-based informatics platform that we created for educators and students to participate in the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project. iBOL is a multinational scientific initiative aimed at creating a globally accessible, DNA-based system for the discovery and identification of all multicellular life. At the core of this system are DNA barcode records that link detailed forms of information (metadata) about an organism and where it was collected (e.g. taxonomic and geospatial data) with a short, standardized genomic sequence or DNA barcode that discriminates species groups in much the same way that UPC and other machine-readable codes distinguish products and merchandise. Barcode records are assembled and stored in the Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD), an open-access, enterprise-scale data collection and analysis workbench, data repository, and data retrieval environment. The information contained in these records is being applied by scientists around the globe to solve problems caused by the interaction of society with Earth’s biodiversity. BOLD-SDP is a portal to the BOLD researcher platform that enables students to assemble barcode records and contribute to the iBOL mission.

Current End Users: high schools, two- and four-year colleges and technical schools, universities, botanical gardens, science centers, and gene banks

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NeuroLab Cell Image Platform

The NeuroLab Cell Image Platform gives students early membership into the neuroscience community as real data contributors

How spinal cord nerve cells (neurons) form interconnected networks is a fundamental question in neurobiology with important implications for the treatment of trauma and degenerative diseases that impair spinal cord function and movement. Efforts to understand this complex process are critically reliant on our ability to visualize and study the behavior of neurons and their wire-like projections called axons.

The hands-on component of our NeuroLab project enables students to visualize embryonic neurons and their axons as they seek out target cells with which to form functional connections or circuits. We created the NeuroLab Cell Image Platform for project participants to organize, annotate, attribute, analyze, validate, and share potentially valuable image data that they capture in the lab using various molecular and genetic axon tracing methods. This cloud-based informatics platform is intended to give students early exposure to data standards and data sharing practices.

Current End Users: junior and senior-level high schools students

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Digital Interactive

Axon Pathfinder is a free, open-access resource for students to explore the molecular logic of nervous system hardwiring

In high school settings, neuroscience education is often restricted to the neuroanatomy of the mature brain and the electrochemical basis of nerve cell communication. The Axon Pathfinder interactive turns the clock back to nervous system development and the biological programs that influence how neurons form circuits that ultimately control different functions in the mature organism.

The term axon pathfinding is used to describe the complex process by which nerve cells (neurons) form connections with target cells during nervous system development. Axon Pathfinder is a digital interactive that enables high school students to actively explore this inherently fascinating phenomenon and examine the biomolecular navigational systems that neurons use to locate target cells and ultimately form circuits.

This open-access platform creates a visually engaging online experience that accurately simulates – inasmuch as possible on a two-dimensional game board grid – the actual behavior of embryonic neurons as they seek out target cells with which to form functional connections. The concepts presented to students through this content-rich learning environment span neuroanatomy and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology. The experience also draws upon the most updated conceptual models of axon pathfinding and our current knowledge of the dynamic receptor-ligand interactions that coordinate this critical developmental process.

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Mobile Utility App

The DNA Barcoding Assistant enables students to expand our knowledge of Earth’s biodiversity

As the world’s largest biodiversity genomics project ever undertaken, the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project is constructing a global library of DNA barcodes – the genetic equivalent of printed barcodes that appear on retail products – to uniquely identify, catalog, and ultimately preserve Earth’s plants, animals, fungi, and protists. Click here to learn more about the iBOL project and its goal to illuminate planetary biodiversity. The Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD) is the centralized data workbench, data repository, and data retrieval platform used by iBOL scientists. The data records that they assemble and store in BOLD contain the nucleotide sequences of genetic barcodes that are used for species identification and discovery. Generated in the lab, these barcodes are linked to other forms of information about a specimen, including its taxonomy, the geospatial coordinates of the location where it was collected, the name and contact information of the collector, digital images of the organism, and other types of metadata.

We developed the DNA Barcoding Assistant – a free utility app that is available for both iPhone and Android smartphones – to aid students in obtaining and/or recording field-related information about a specimen. Together with a student-centered interface to BOLD (the BOLD Student Data Portal), this mobile utility app enables students to acquire and organize the key information necessary to help iBOL scientists expand the genetic registry of Earth’s multicellular life.

Current End Users: high schools, two- and four-year colleges and technical schools, universities, botanical gardens, science centers, and gene banks

Instructional Supports

Our scientists collaborate with science teachers on the design of instructional materials to support positive STEM learning outcomes

Course-based research experiences developed by our team establish an exciting pathway for teachers to connect their students to groundbreaking research and engage them in the scientific discovery process as it unfolds in real-world settings. The implementation of these authentic experiences in the science classroom and lab is supported by an integrated suite of online and print resources that are accessible through our project-specific websites. Developed in collaboration with science teachers and pilot-tested in the classroom, these resources include modifiable lesson plans, teacher manuals containing strategies to promote student engagement within and across lessons, videos and multimedia presentations to assist teachers in the delivery of advanced life science ideas and concepts, activity sheets to help students deepen their understanding of content and make connections between related concepts and phenomena, and illustrated manuals to guide the proper execution of laboratory techniques and bioinformatics operations and workflows.