Three MCCC Professors Share Lab Manual for Non-Science Majors on Open Textbook Network


West Windsor, N.J. – Three science professors at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) have written a lab manual that goes a long way to assisting non-science, pre-biology, and pre-allied health students improve their science literacy. Not only have students become more successful in the lab, but they are also learning core biology concepts and developing critical thinking and analysis skills that are useful across the disciplines.

And now those professors are sharing their manual with the world.

Unfolding the Mystery of Life, Biology Lab Manual for Non-Science Majors has been accepted by the Open Textbook Network (OTN), the first time MCCC professors have contributed to this online textbook sharing site. The manual is co-authored by Biology faculty members Ellen Genovesi, Laura Blinderman and Patrick Natale. The cover design is by MCCC Health Professions student Alexis Halka. The manual is required for Biological Science Concepts (BIO 113), a course for non-science and pre-allied health majors that provides a survey of fundamental ideas, concepts and principles in the biological sciences.

“Our goal is provide students with a basic understanding of biology and how it works in the world around us," Genovesi said. "When they read about a science-related topic in the news, we want them to use what they have learned here. And, the organizational and analysis skills they are mastering in the lab are important no matter what their course of study."

The manual begins with lab safety, followed by 13 exercises that give students the opportunity to work with living and preserved specimens, and laboratory reagents and equipment. "Students develop basic lab skills, gather and organize data, measure and calculate, test hypotheses, analyze data, and write up their findings,” Genovesi said.

The exercises include the Metric System of Measurement, Microscopy, the Scientific Method, Cell Membrane Biology, Biomolecules, Enzymes, Photosynthesis, Human Genetics and Cytogenetics, Using Genetic Crosses to Analyze a Stickleback Trait, Protein Gel Electrophoresis, Isolation of DNA from Plants, Animal Tissues, Microbiology, and Food Microbiology and Disease Transmission.

"These experiments are shorter in duration than what's found in typical manuals. They teach core concepts that are not weighted down by details not useful for non-science students," Genovesi explained.

The original manual was created by Blinderman about ten years ago and has gone through numerous revisions and updates since then. Genovesi notes, "Our combined years in the lab have given us insights into critical areas of mastery and the best instructional methods. We hope that other colleges will find it as useful as we have."

The Open Textbook Network (OTN) promotes access, affordability, and student success. As stated on the OTN website: “We believe in the power of open education to transform higher education. Open textbooks not only contribute to student academic success, but also offer faculty the chance to reclaim their courses based on their expertise.”

The OTN library is a premiere resource for peer-reviewed academic textbooks and are free, openly licensed and complete. Learn more at Open Textbook Network here. (Search by title to access the PDF of Unfolding the Mystery of Life.)

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Manual co-authors Patrick Natale and Ellen Genovesi. Not pictured: Laura Blinderman.

The manual has proven extremely useful in teaching core biology concepts to non-science majors.

Cell membrane biology was the experiment of the day in BIO 113.