Toolkit bioHIVE

Creating a student-research community via bioHIVE



Teaching resources
Numerical competency
Web-based platform


In our Centre, several distinct projects rely on the efforts of paid student partners, collectively called bioBEES. bioBEES partner with staff in many ways, from helping with data collection and interpretation, to organizing an ongoing student tutoring program (biORAKEL). Critical to our mission is the “Students as Partners” concept, whereby students are far more than cheap transient labor; rather, they are developers, initiators, and co-creators (I.e., true partners). While not all of the bioBEES tasks are research-oriented, they are all embedded in the academic and research community in our department. However, there were initially few opportunities for the bioBEES to learn from each other, and any sense of community was generated serendipitously. Thus, we sought to add value to the student experience by creating an intentional learning community focused on student work in the Centre. This community is called the bioHIVE and it was initiated in mid-2021.

Goal & purpose

Our overall goals are to (1) formalize and professionalize student participation in our academic community and (2) create a community of scholars with the shared identity of working for the bioCEED Centre for Excellence in Biology Education. By forming this community, we hope students will have

    1. increased sense of belonging (or relatedness, in motivational terms)
    2. the conviction that their work is part of something larger (i.e., what they are doing is broadly relevant and meaningful)
    3. greater self-efficacy regarding research abilities (for those specifically engaged in research)
    4. strengthened student involvement in research and academic development

Community description

Participants include the bioHIVE leader (Cotner) and coordinator (Holtermann), along with current bioBEES (i.e., students employed as research technicians to support various bioCEED projects such as biORAKEL, bikuben, the bioCEED escape rooms, etc.).


Our needs are simple:

    1. A meeting space–virtual or in-person–to meet on a regular basis
    2. Literature on academic development and student active research for distribution in the group (this will vary depending on the areas of current investigation)

Description of activity

During weekly (one-hour) meetings, bioHIVE takes a traditional research group meeting format in which participants share progress updates in turn. For example, in one session, we discussed how best to recruit participants for piloting a new “escape room” developed by one of the bioBEES. In another session, we discussed criteria to be used in mapping the curriculum in our department. And in another session, students gave feedback on a proposal in development.

Key to these meetings is the creation of a space in which:

    1. Input is solicited from all participants
    2. Students identify the type of input they seek (e.g., feedback on data interpretation, problem solving, generating ideas for new directions)
    3. Students engage in discussion of relevant literature, including that of their colleagues in various stages of development.

Other considerations

Student schedules vary by term, thus meeting times may vary by term. Also, the leaders and coordinators must be able to invest time on a consistent basis. One way to accomplish this is to build in the necessary time to grant proposals (e.g., 5% of an individual’s time on a project could involve mentoring bioBEES, both on the focal project and in general).

Temporary contracts are a means to formalize student participation in research and academic development. Since employment policies and practices may differ across academic institutions, student recruitment requires close cooperation with the local (department or faculty) administration. In some settings, students could receive course credits for participation in a research community.


  • Kaul, G., & Pratt, C. (2010). Undergraduate research learning communities for first-year and lower-division students. Peer Review, 12(2), 20.
  • Mumford, K., Hill, S., & Kieffer, L. (2017). Utilizing Undergraduate Research to Enhance Integrative Learning. Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly, 37(4).
  • McCartney, A. R. M., Clements, R. R. N., Cahalan, L., Johnson, K., & Pace, B. (2020). Building Undergraduate Research across the Disciplines: New Ideas Outside of the Classroom with an Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Club. Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research, 3(3), 36-44.


  • Sehoya Cotner