Table_1_PUMAA: A Platform for Accessible Microbiome Analysis in the Undergraduate Classroom.DOCX (661.74 kB)

Table_1_PUMAA: A Platform for Accessible Microbiome Analysis in the Undergraduate Classroom.DOCX

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posted on 06.10.2020, 04:53 by Keith Mitchell, Jiem Ronas, Christopher Dao, Amanda C. Freise, Serghei Mangul, Casey Shapiro, Jordan Moberg Parker

Improvements in high-throughput sequencing makes targeted amplicon analysis an ideal method for the study of human and environmental microbiomes by undergraduates. Multiple bioinformatics programs are available to process and interpret raw microbial diversity datasets, and the choice of programs to use in curricula is largely determined by student learning goals. Many of the most commonly used microbiome bioinformatics platforms offer end-to-end data processing and data analysis using a command line interface (CLI), but the downside for novice microbiome researchers is the steep learning curve often required. Alternatively, some sequencing providers include processing of raw data and taxonomy assignments as part of their pipelines. This, when coupled with available web-based or graphical user interface (GUI) analysis and visualization tools, eliminates the need for students or instructors to have extensive CLI experience. However, lack of universal data formats can make integration of these tools challenging. For example, tools for upstream and downstream analyses frequently use multiple different data formats which then require writing custom scripts or hours of manual work to make the files compatible. Here, we describe a microbial ecology bioinformatics curriculum that focuses on data analysis, visualization, and statistical reasoning by taking advantage of existing web-based and GUI tools. We created the Program for Unifying Microbiome Analysis Applications (PUMAA), which solves the problem of inconsistent files by formatting the output files from several raw data processing programs to seamlessly transition to a suite of GUI programs for analysis and visualization of microbiome taxonomic and inferred functional profiles. Additionally, we created a series of tutorials to accompany each of the microbiome analysis curricular modules. From pre- and post-course surveys, students in this curriculum self-reported conceptual and confidence gains in bioinformatics and data analysis skills. Students also demonstrated gains in biologically relevant statistical reasoning based on rubric-guided evaluations of open-ended survey questions and the Statistical Reasoning in Biology Concept Inventory. The PUMAA program and associated analysis tutorials enable students and researchers with no computational experience to effectively analyze real microbiome datasets to investigate real-world research questions.