As a teaching professor, my greatest pedagogical goals are to empower my students to acquire a mastery of scientific literacy, and to contribute their skill set towards solving problems that they may face in their future science related careers. The Stink Bug Project is an undergraduate research program that I have established at McMaster University that targets these two goals. Under my direct supervision, students work in team-based projects to contribute to the eradication of an agriculturally devastating pest, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).
Recent surveillance analysis has demonstrated that the BMSB is a pest insect that is pervasively spreading throughout the Province of Ontario. With this impending threat to our Ontario farmers, very little is known with regards to the cell and systemic physiology of BMSB. The Stink Bug Project in the Applied Learning Lab for Undergraduate Research Excellence (ALLURE) at McMaster University is an undergraduate driven research program that will not only contribute to targeting this pest species as a means of protecting Ontario’s agricultural crops, but will contribute to the development of students in the Faculty of Science at McMaster as integrative scholars with the understanding that knowledge is not just learned, but discovered. There is very minimal research that has been done with regards to identifying the role that specific gene products play in the physiological regulation of BMSB. The Stink Bug Project has undergraduate students investigating the cell and molecular physiology of BMSB as a means to understand how this contributes to their physiological life processes. The overall goal of this study is to identify the effects of plant-derived toxins on BMSB immunity, cardiac activity and insect survival. With this information, we anticipate that plant-derived toxins will be of biotechnological potential use against the invasiveness and success of the BMSB.
The Stink Bug Project will impact hundreds of undergraduate students in years to come. In this project students build skills that include but are not limited to: critical thinking, scientific literacy, practical laboratory skills and appreciation for comparative research using model organisms. We will also be incorporating other model organisms and other research projects in subsequent years which will provide even more students with these types of applied research opportunities.
The Stink Bug Project includes collaborations with external research groups (other academic institutes and industrial partners). All students are involved in collaborative interactions with these research partners (meetings, conference presentations, publications etc). This long term project will not only provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to engage in authentic research experiences in an undergraduate research lab and contribute to novel research and discovery, but will also contribute to the design of experiments and techniques which can be used in various undergraduate courses to enhance the course-related laboratory experiences of hundreds more students in the Faculty of Science.