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Cell Biology Education Consortium

A network of faculty and students incorporating cell culture-based research into the classroom

Click to watch the "What is the CBEC  intro (video)"


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Each block represents a different Cell Block.  Students choose which block they use in class.  

What is the CBEC?

The need for changing how the natural sciences are taught and the expansion of undergraduate research experiences has been well-documented in the literature. One mechanism to accomplish these changes is the incorporation of course-based undergraduate research experiences. While isolated groups are introducing cell culture techniques into such experiences, there has been no coordinated effort to compile resources and provide training that makes creating customizable cell-culture-based research projects easier to implement at smaller, primarily undergraduate institutions and community colleges where faculty time and resources are limited.


The primary activity of CBEC will be the development of "Cell Blocks," modules consisting of written and video protocols and classroom implementation strategies and assessments. Cell Blocks will be developed by faculty and their students at small institutions making it likely that they will be adaptable at similar schools. Because the Cell Blocks  have similar basic components, they can be  mixed and matched to answer novel questions. The implementation of multiple Cell Blocks will serve as the basis for semester-long research projects that provide the foundation for independent student research projects.


Network faculty will have opportunities for professional development through the creation of new Cell Blocks, access to all Cell Block modules and associated supplies, and networking opportunities. Students will be able to interact within a community of scientists to expand on their experiences and create their own independent research projects, establish a funding record through a voucher system, and participate in professional development experiences.



From the beginner, "I do not have a hood," to the seasoned expert, the CBEC will provide financial and technical support related to the incorporation of cell culture into the undergraduate classroom.  If you have an idea or desire to learn cell  culture techniques, please do not hesitate to join our community.


You must  join our community before you can be eligible for funding. Information is only used for reporting purposes to NSF. 


After you complete the CBEC membership form, sign up to receive news and updates.

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Cell Blocks

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What is a Cell Block?

The purpose of Cell Blocks is to provide a practical way to implement tissue-culture-based CUREs into cell biology courses.  Most cell biology courses contain a lab component that meets once/week for two-three hours. To facilitate being able to use that entire time to assist students with experimental work, students must come to lab with a basic understanding of what they need to accomplish and how they can successfully accomplish their goals. This means students must have the resources to learn and understand the protocols they will be using during lab before they arrive; Cell Blocks provide these resources as well as resources to help faculty assess their students’ work.


What should a Cell Block Contain?

A Cell Block should contain, at a minimum, a written protocol, a video protocol and a pre-lab assignment. An ideal cell block may also include best practices, pedagogical notes that may include how to incorporate the ideas of the lab protocol into the classroom part of the course and an assessment.  Assessment for individual blocks may simply be in the form of keeping a lab notebook.  Many CUREs use oral or poster presentations as the assessment for the entire content of the CURE (which will use multiple cell blocks).



Cell Blocks in Action:

Cancer CURE

In the Cancer CURE, students answer the overarching question, “How do potential therapeutic compounds affect hallmark behaviors of cancer cells?” To address this question, students examined the effects of their compound on their cell line’s proliferation and migration.  Based on the results of these experiments and current findings in the literature, students then chose a protein they believed may be differentially expressed in treated and untreated cells.  They then performed a western blot to examine protein expression levels

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Cell Blocks in Action:

Cell Differentiation / Neuron CURE

In the Neural Differentiation CURE, students are investigating the role of exosomes on neural signaling and differentiation. Since students expected a decrease in viability in their exosome-treated cells as compared to their untreated cells, they chose to incorporate the MTT cell block created for the Cancer CURE; the students then created a neural differentiation Cell Block.  This project design reflects the modular nature of the Cell Blocks created by students to originally answer two different questions.  However, Cell Blocks can be combined in any number of ways to address fundamental cell biology questions that can be tailored to the faculty member’s research interests. Blocks could also be chosen based on available equipment at a given institution, interests of the students, or other relevant factors.​

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Voucher Request Forms

Collaborative & Innovative

Voucher proposals will be reviewed  January 15, April 15, July 15, and October 15, with a 2-3-week turnaround time for review and notification.  Our intent is to allow for funding to be available at the start of each fall, spring, and summer semesters.  Project completion deadlines will be between 4 months (semester) and 7 months (semester + summer) after receipt of funding. The CBEC will provide funds as reimbursement for supplies purchased only.  Faculty salary and university overhead can NOT be charged to the vouchers.   


Want to start a cell-tissue culture project but have no idea what you are doing? We understand.  You do not need prior tissue culture experience to apply. We can help you get started, but please contact us before you apply.  Funds can be used for some types of "equipment", RNA/DNA seq and general tissue culture related supplies.  "Equipment" under 3,000 is not considered equipment and may qualify if related to cell tissue culture needs.  (we found a $3,000 biosafety cabinet!!)


Applicants will need to include complete plans for their proposed work or travel, including budget details (quotes for supplies from specified vendors or resource center, travel breakdown, etc.), as well as any interaction between network institutions—for example, is the student from a community college applying to complete summer research at a network 4-year university, is a non-network institution applying to create modules to complement existing network resources or in collaboration with faculty at a network institution. 


Applications will be assessed by the PI, Co-PI and steering committee for scientific merit and network fit. Every effort will be made to fund new applicants, applicants from minority-serving institutions, first-generation college students, and those from 2-year institutions.  While funding may not be completely equitable, whenever possible, one voucher from each applying institution will be funded before two (or more) awards are made to the same institution.

  • Describe undergraduate involvement.

  • Identify Grand Challenge Question(s) to be addressed.

  • Will you interact with another CEBC institution? If so, please provide details.

  • What type of module will you develop?

  • Proposal Request

    • Title

    • Hypothesis

    • Describe activities

    • Protocols (video/written/assessments) expected to produce

    • Amount Requested (detailed budget must be included)


All voucher recipients will be required to complete a final report following the funded activity.  



Cell Block Development Voucher

Faculty  and Student Cell Block development awards: Module development awards of up to $3,000 each are available to CBEC members working with undergraduate students.  All faculty performing research within the mission of the CBEC at member and outreach institutions are eligible to apply. We anticipate a range of monetary requests that will not necessarily amount to $3,000 each. Collaborative projects between CBEC universities are encouraged and are eligible for increased funding.  Proposals with student authors are strongly encouraged.  


No idea what you are doing? We understand.  You do not need prior tissue culture experience to apply. We can help you get started. Please contact us before you apply

Classroom Implementation Voucher

Want to create a class CURE using Cell Blocks?  Curriculum-focused awards of up to $3000 are available to CBEC faculty to support the implementation of multiple modules into the classroom. All faculty at member and outreach institutions are eligible to apply. Faculty must be willing and able to obtain IRB approval to collect student assessment data.   Class projects can result in the development of new Cell Blocks but the focus should be on incorporating research into the classroom  

Student Summer Voucher

Undergraduate student awards of up to $3,000 each are available to support summer research at a network institution.  Stipends may include funding to assist with travel between network research site and student’s home institution, housing, or conference attendance. Students working with funding from student or faculty module development, implementation or research vouchers during the summer can simultaneously apply for a summer research stipend.

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Available Cell Blocks

Written protocols and a list of Cell Blocks is available through our member's page.   You can access all videos on the CBEC YouTube channel.  Cell Blocks are free to use.     The future of the CBEC is dependent on our ability to collect assessment data related to  CBEC member activities.  If you or your students use a Cell Block please let us know.  Your success is how we measure our success.   

Please acknowledge the CBEC  and our NSF RCN-UBE grant.  

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All Cell Block video protocols are posted on our YouTube channel. Please, subscribe to our channel. 

All protocols associated with Cell Blocks are used and disseminated by the CBEC through open access under a Creative Commons license (Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA 4.0). 

We have an open access policy for the use of Cell Blocks.  All material is free and is supported by the NSF.  However, because NSF requires us to track protocol dissemination, protocols must be individually downloaded by all users.   Please do not share protocols with other faculty.  To access our resources, individuals must create a free members account.  This is a quick and painless process.  


 Please acknowledge the CBEC when presenting work collected as a result of CBEC related material. Your success is our success. For the CBEC to continue to receive NSF support, we must show the impact on the scientific community.  Please let us know how you used our material.  


By creating a members account you acknowledge your agreement to these guidelines.

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Nathan Reyna (PI)

Associate Professor 

Ouachita Baptist University


Lori Hensley (Co-PI)

Professor and Biology Department Chair

Jacksonville State Univeristy

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Contact Us

Contact Us

Thank you for supporting us along the way. 

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