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Dec 20
Teaching plant pathology with the Top Ten Unanswered Questions in MPMI

200110_Ruiz_228RT810200x200.jpgAssociate professor of molecular virology at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Hernán García-Ruiz used the Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI​ to inspire the students in his introductory graduate-level course. Learn more about his process in the interview below. 

1) How did you incorporate the Top 10 Unanswered Questions into your class and teachings? 

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, PLPT 801"Biology of Plant Pathogens" is our introductory graduate-level course. Under the leadership of myself and with collaboration from Samuel Eastman, Peter Mullin, and Tom Powers, we use an inquiry-based learning approach, and we incorporated the MPMI journal's "Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI." At the start of the semester, students used this review to learn plant pathology terminology, experimental techniques and approaches, and current research topics in plant-microbe interactions. 

During the second week of the semester, students read a cutting-edge research paper or review that addressed one of the "Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI." This activity allowed students to establish a connection between a knowledge gap and a publication that discussed that knowledge gap. Additionally, students used their selected paper as a model to structure and format a term paper on a current topic of interest in plant pathology.

Students chose a current topic in plant pathology and prepared literature review manuscripts that provided novel insights. The standard of quality is that these reviews must be suitable for publication in MPMI.

At the end of the course, students are evaluated based on several criteria:

  • Critical assessment of the research paper or literature review they read in week one. 
  • ​A literature review manuscript formatted for MPMI.
  • ​The Plant Pathology Symposium that is open to the Department of Plant Pathology and the entire university, as well as the general public. This semester it was held on December 16, 2021 at 8:05 AM. 

2) What made the Top 10 Unanswered Questions a helpful teaching tool? 

In our course, we want our students to understand molecular plant pathology from the basics all the way to the cutting edge. MPMI's "Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI" wholly summarizes the cutting edge as defined by society members at the 2019 IS-MPMI Congress. It also provided an outstanding framework for students to learn the current research topics of interest worldwide. 

3) Anything else you’d like to share about this experience? 

Our inquiry-based learning approach is an effective and innovative method of instruction. Molecular plant pathology is an expansive field that covers many researchers and topics and defies the constraints of traditional lecture-based instruction. By focusing on the unanswered questions of plant pathology, we can go beyond simple memorization of known facts and direct the interest of beginning graduate students to the areas where they can contribute the most. Interestingly, by learning about the "Top 10 Unanswered Questio​ns in MPMI," students naturally scrutinize their own thesis project and have made significant adjustments. 

samueleastman150.jpgDr. García-Ruiz would also like to recognize Samuel Eastman, a 4th-year graduate student who has helped with his class two years in a row, first as a TA then as a co-instructor. Samuel participated in the IS-MPMI Congress and enthusiastically embraced using the Top 10 Unanswered Questions as a teaching tool. 

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