Leading Discussions of Scientific Articles: A Graduate Development Workshop Workshop presented at POD Conference, Milwaukee, October 28, 2005 Judith

R. Gibber, Director, GSAS Teaching Center, Columbia University http://www.columbia.edulcultatl jrg43@columbia.edu

I gave this workshop three times to STEM graduate students at Columbia University, one time together with a postdoctoral research and teaching fellow, Damon Chaky. General organization of the workshop: 1. Modeling a discussion of a research article using jigsaw learning a. b. Before the workshop, participants were sent a one-page research article to read. At the workshop, three small groups were formed, and each was given a set of questions about either (a) the introduction and methods, (b) results, or (c) conclusions. They discussed these questions, which helped them understand what the researchers did and why. New groups were formed, each of which contained at least one person from groups (a), (b), and (c) above. In the new group, each person presented the part of the article they understood, so that everyone understood the entire article. These new groups were then given a second set of questions to discuss, requiring them to think critically about the research design and conclusions. The group as a whole then discussed what they had learned from the jigsaw discussion, and why this format might be particularly attractive for students.


d. e.


Discussion of the use of research articles in undergraduate education. Sometimes these questions were given to participants to reflect on and jot down ideas as they waited for the workshop to begin. Other times, they were simply discussed with the group as a whole. a. What do you recall about your first experience reading a scientific research article? What are some of the concerns undergraduates might have as they tackle the scientific literature? Graduate students readily come up with many of the following concerns of undergraduates: the vocabulary and terminology is unfamiliar those statistics look confusing they don't have sufficient background to understand the science papers look intimidating, format is unfamiliar papers really are hard to read, take a lot oftime, don't realize that they can skip over some parts, they get lost in the details and miss the big picture • they lack confidence in their ability to critique an article b. Why do we ask undergraduates to read scientific articles? What are the goals professors might have for including these as a course assignment? Professors may just tell TAs to "discuss the article", and not give them explicit information on why they include this assignment, and graduate students' often referred to their own undergraduate experiences as they considered the benefits of reading articles. Goals from a recent workshop: • understand the scientific process, demystify science • experience science first-hand, have a better sense of "real" science, understand things that go wrong in the lab • learn how a theory develops historically • allow students in a class to learn more about their individual interests • learn to take a critical approach towards science, learn to doubt research results • learn laboratory methods • see models of good writing of research reports • prepare for a career as a scientist • • • • •


Ways to assign article reading to meet different course goals. Some of the assignments included on the Annotated Bibliography were discussed, others provided in handout. Finding research articles that are appropriate for these different goals Some suggested ways to find appropriate articles: • See citations at end of chapter in the course textbook • Letters to editor • News and Views section of Nature • PubMed - search for biomedical research articles on a particular topic • EurekAlert - press releases from universities and research institutions. Likely to be research of popular interest. http://www.eurekalert.org • Faculty of 1000 - researchers comment on the most important papers in their field of biology http://www.facultyoflOOO.com Encouraging participation The final part of the workshop focused on how to encourage students to participate in the discussion of a research article. For the most part, this was similar to other workshops on Discussion Leading, but it did include some tips more specific to scientists, such as this list by Damon Chaky (chakyd@ldeo.columbia.edu) of questions to focus a discussion: • What are the authors' explicit assumptions? Implicit assumptions? • Are the results statistically significant? What is their importance? • What are the major conclusions? • Are there alternate or better ways of presenting the results? • Are you convinced of the authors' conclusions? Why or why not?




of the workshop:

Rate the workshop on a scale of 1-5, where 5=excellent. The workshop was given three times, with the following average ratings: 4.4 (n=19), 4.5 (n=8), 4.9 (n=5).

Ideas for improving this workshop the next time it's offered: The most frequent suggestion for improving the workshop was to make it longer to allow more time for the section on "encouraging student participation in discussion of articles." The final workshop was therefore lengthened from 1.5 to 2 hours. The second most frequent suggestion was to emphasize other scientific disciplines, since the article (and my own backgroundl) were in biology. Describe one thing from this workshop that was useful or that you think you'll incorporate teaching in the future. into your

Most frequently mentioned: Jigsaw learning, breaking students into groups for discussion, and other ideas for involving students in discussion As it turned out, the workshop did attract TAs who were leading discussions about research articles, but by far the majority of participants were not, but just saw the workshop as an interesting professional development opportunity. This workshop proved to be an effective way of getting STEM students to think about ways to actively encourage classroom participation, as well as to think about goals for the course before designing particular assignments.

LETTERS tween advertisement placement and readership. It may be that 84% of alcohol advertising is seen by readers older than 21 years. Our analysis suggests that the remaining 16% of alcohol advertising seen by adolescents is more than what would be ex.peered by chance if advertisements were placed only as a function of adult readership. Paul]. Chung, MD,Ms Department of Pediatrics David Geffen School of Medicine University of California LosAngeles Craig F. Garfield, MD, MA Department of Pediatrics Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute Evanston, III
Paul Rathouz, PhD

Figure. Time Course of Mean Blood Pressure and Heart Rate During a 14·Day Diet With PRC or PFC and a Subsequent 7-Day Washout Period
• Potypheno~Rich Chocala1e Polyphenol-Free Chocolate Heart Rale

70 69



68 67 66

Systolic Blood Pressure 160

Department of Health Studies University of Chicago Chicago,III




E 150

Chocolate and Blood Pressure in Elderly Individuals With Isolated Systolic Hypertension
01 I

Diastolic Blood Pressure 90



80 To the Editor: Chocolate may have beneficial cardiovascular 14 16 2 18 20 22 0 4 6 8 10 12 effects, possibly due to cocoa polyphenols. 1 Experiments in aniTreatmenl --------Washout --mals suggest that plant polyphenols decrease blood pressure Day (BP)2; however, evidence from human clinical trials is lack• p < .05; tP< .001; :t:P = .04; and §P = .03. indicating significant differences in blood ing. We examined whether dark chocolate (polyphenol-rich pressure between diets with polyphenol-rlch or polyphenol-free chocolate, adchocolate [PRC]) may lower BP in individuals with mild iso- justed to a baseline blood pressure difference of zero (paired 2-tailed t tests, individual P values are adjusted for multiple comparisons by the method of Holm), lated hypertension. All other P values are> .05. Error bars indicate SEM. Methods. We conducted a randomized crossover trial in 13 otherwise healthy individuals (6 men and 7 women, aged 55-64 years, with body mass index of 21.9-26.2 [calculated as weight The BP was recorded daily, in a blinded fashion, with parin kilograms divided by the square of height in meters]) with ticipants in a seated position, 12 hours post-dose, in the left recently diagnosed and untreated stage 1 mild isolated systolic upper arm with a validated oscillometer (Omron HEM 722C, hypertension (mean [SDj systolic BP, 153.2 [3.91 mmHg; mean Omron, Mannheim, Germany). A systolic BP of more than 170 [SDldiastolic BP, 83.8 [3.5] mm Hg). After a cocoa-free run-in mm Hg or a diastolic BP of more than 100 mm Hg at a single phaseof 7 days, participants were randomly assi to receive visit was necessary for referral for antihypertensive pharma14 consecutive daily doses of either 100-g dark RC ars con- cological treatment. At the end of the study participants were raining 500 mg of polyphenols and 480 kcal of energy (Ritter referred to their physician for further monitoring and manageSpoJ;'tHalbbitter, Alfred Ritter, Waldenbuch, Germany), or 14 ment ofBP. We received approval for our study from the ethdaysof90-g~~.?J.ate_(p.?"~rP.~~,r:t~.~~!!.:~.~~~?1.~~(f~ ics committee of the Medical Faculty of the University of Cobars that also contained 480 kcal and similar amounts of cocoa logne; all participants gave written informed consent. butter, macronutrients, fiber, electrolytes, and vitamins (Milka Results. Participants had E nificantl lOWer systolic and diasWeisseSchokolade, Kraft Foods, Bremen, Germany). After a co- tolic Bl's . 'n lOda sofbe innin PRC, ut this effectwas not coa-free washout phase of 7 days, participants were crossed over l~ seen during the! PFCiperloa (FIGURE. ,(t the end of the 14-d~y to the other condition. Participants were asked to substitute the ...f.R~i[lt~D:':~!l\ig!I, lIlean(SD) systolicBP h;d·d~ai~~dbi5.i"(i4) chocolate bars for foods of similar energy and macronutrient com- mm Hg (P<. 00 1;' 2.-:.t;ifed'ttestyai:idm~;i:i(SDfdi~stolic position. Overall diet during the study period was assessed by BPby 1.8 (2.0) mm Hg (P= .002; paired 2-tailed t test) compared reports of daily food intake and by measurement of body weight, withPFC. After discOIlt!n:L.\!).1iQU.Q(®q~lJ.mPJ!gD.,_]p}·~}:I:!~ed plasma concentrations of lipids and glucose, and urinary excre- to~~e~t~!.'Y.~~~~'jl~:~~~,~~t;~,~.~ys.~snotaff~~ted don of sodium, potassium, and nitrogen at the run-in phase and by either treatment. There were n~.;.~ ..~if!!::SIl:'~§'@"!:'""§.. after each intervention period. of chocolate on BP. None of the participants reached the pre-


©20lB American Medical Associatiou. All rights reserved.

(Reprinted) JAMA, August 27, 2003-Vol

290, No. B 1029'·

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at Columbia University, on October 16,2005





c.A-uA (H-t-Figure 1. Time Course of Flow-Mediated Dilation After Ingestion of 100 mL of Cocoa Drink Containing High (176 mg mL; n",6) or Low «10 mg mL; n=3) Amounts of Flavan-3-ols

defined threshold that would have required antihypertensive drug therapy. Daily energy intake and macronutrient composition remained stable throughout the study. Body mass index, 24-hour urinary excretion of sodium, potassium, and total nitrogen, as ;weU as fasting plasma concentrations of total cholesterol, lowdensity lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose were not Significantly different b~tween the run-in phase and the postintervention periods. ,Comment. A calorie-balanced increase in consumption of dark chocolate may favorably affect BP in previously untreated elderly hypertensive individuals, Control meals using PFC differed from PRC meals only by the lack of cocoa solids. Plant polyphenols are major constituents of the cocoa solids,' have significant bioavailability," and appear to be responsible for the reductions in BP. The long-term clinical effects, howeyer, remain unknown. Dirk Taubert, MD,PhD Department of Pharmacology Reinhard Berkels, PhD Renate Rcesen, PhD WolfgangKlaus, MD,PhD Medical College of the University of Cologne Cologne, Germany
1. Keen CL Chocolate: food as medicine/medicine as food. J Am Coli Nutr. 2001; 20(5 suppl):436S-439S, 4405-4425. 2. Diebolt M. Bucher B, Andriantsitohaina R. Wine polyphenols decrease blood pressure. improve NO vasodilatation. and induce gene expression. Hypertension. 2001;38:159-165_ 3. LUna F. Crouzillat D, Cirou L, Bucheli P. Chemical composition and flavor of Ecuadorian cocoa liquor. J Agric Food Chern. 2002;50:3527-3532. 4~'Holt RR. Lazarus SA, Sullards MC, et al, Procyanidin dimer B2 [epicatechin(4beta-8)-epicatechinl in human plasma after the consumption of a flavanol-rich cocoa. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:798·804.


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Ravan-3-ol Rich Cocoa Flavan-3-ol Low Cocoa



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Data given as mean (SEM). ·Indicates significant difference from baseline (P<.001).

Vascular Effects of Cocoa Rich in Flavan-3-ols To the Editor: In vitro studies have suggested that flavonoids may have specific vascular effects, but their mechanism of action has not been clarified.' A subclass of flavonoids-i-flavan3~Olsand their oligomers (procyanidins)-are constituents of cocoa' beans, which can be detected in human plasma after ingestion of cocoa.? In turn, plant extracts rich in flavan-S-ols can increase the activity of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) in endothelial cells." Nitric oxide is an essential Signaling molecule in vascular physiology. Nitric oxide bioactivity can be preserved in human plasma in a circulating pool via increases in anumber of nitro sated compounds.P Thus, it is possible that cocoa rich in flavan-Svols may lead to improved endotheliumdependent dilation via an increase of nitric oxide bioactivity. However, commercially available cocoa drinks contain only small amounts of flavan-S-ols due to roasting and alkalization of cocoa beans, which are known to degrade flavan-S-ols. We tested the hypothesis that ingestion of flavan-S-ol rich cocoa can increase the circulating pool ofnitric oxide in human plasma, thus increasing endothelium-dependent dilation. Methods. Participants were 26 outpatients with at least I cardiovascular risk factor, including history of coronary artery dis1030

ease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, or current tobacco use. Individuals were excluded if they had C-reactive protein levels greater than 0.5 mg/dl., atrial fibrillation, acute coronary syndrome, or New York Heart Association class III or IV heart failure. Individuals were studied in the morning after a I2-hour fasting period. In an initial study involving the first 6 participants, we assessed the time course of £lavan-3-o1 effects on flowmediated dilation (FMD). This was measured at 0,2,4, and 6 hours after ingestion of 100 ml, of cocoa drink containing 176 mg of flavan-3-ols (70 mg of epicatechin plus catechin, 106 mg of procyanidins [The Positive Food Co, Wokingham, England]) (n=6) or control (100 mL cocoa drink with <10 mg of flavan-3-ols [Dovedrink, Mars Inc, Hackettstown, N]] or water) (n=3). We then used these results to guide the timing of a doubleblind crossover study. Twenty participants received 100 mL of cocoa drinks with high or low levels of flavan-3-ols, in random order, on 2 consecutive days. The sum of nitrosylated and nitrosated species (collectively referred to as RNO) was measured by reductive chemiluminescence assay 2 hours after ingestion on both days." Nitrate and nitrite levels were measured as previously described." Endothelium-dependent dilation was assessed by measuring FMD of the brachial artery. In addition, we measured a number of other vascular parameters that would not be expected to change as a result of flavan-Svol, including blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma levels of nitrite and mtr ate. Similarly, we measured endotheliumindependent dilation of the brachial artery following sublingual application of 400 pg of glyceroltrinitrate, diameter of the brachial artery, and forearm blood-flow at rest and during reactive hyperemia, as assessed by venous occlusion plethysmography. (Technical details are available from the authors.) All variables except endothelium-independent dilation were measured both before and after ingestion of the cocoa. Endo(92003 American 'Medical Association. All rights reserved.


August 27. 2003-Vol

290. NO.8 (Reprinted)

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at Columbia University, on October 16,2005

Questions 00 the article, Taubert, D, Berkels, R, Roesen, R, Klaus, W, Chocolate and Blood Pressure in Elderly Individuals with Isolated Systolic Hypertension. JAMA, August 27,3003,290 (8): 1029-1030

Group 1: Why did they do this experiment? What is the general question they were interested in?


IS the specific

question they asked here?

What is the evidence in support of their hypothesis?

Look up before class: "'7 Polyphenols /




Group 2: What did they do? Draw a time line to show the experimental design. Indicate what the scientists did.

Who were the subjects?

Lookup b~fore class: ~ Hypertension /' Isolated systolic hypertension

o: -ttO. ~

II ..




Group 3: What did they find?

What were their results?

What conclusions did they draw?

Knswet these questions in your own words, not using the jargon of the researchers. Imagine you are talking to {Tiends who are over 55 years old, and are interested in learning news about health.


A broad class of antioxidant phytochemicals that are found throughout the plant kingdom. are thought to playa role in maintaining health, others may be toxic.

Naturally occurring plant compounds. Some phytochemicals

. ~

http://www.chocolateinfo.comlrllrl_gloss.j .



What is high blood pressure? High blood pressure or hypertension means high pressure (tension) in the arteries. The arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the pumping heart to all of the tissues and organs of the body. High blood pressure is generally defined as a level exceeding 140/90 mm Hg that has been confirmed on multiple occasions. The systolic blood pressure, which is the top number, represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood into the circulation. The diastolic pressure, which is the bottom number, represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes after the contraction

Whafis isolated
!" "," ,:.:.

systolic hypertension?

Remember that the systolic blood pressure is the top number in the blood pressure reading and represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood into the circulation. A systolic blood pressure that is persistently higher than 140 mm Hg is usually considered elevated, especially when associated with an elevated diastolic pressure (over90). Isolated systolic hypertension, however, is defined as a systolic pressure that is above 160 mm Hg with a diastollc pressure that still is below 90. This disorder primarily affects older people and is characterized by an increased (wide) pulse pressure. The pulse pressure is defined as the difference between the systolic and diastolic blood pressures. An elevation of the systolic pressure without an elevation of the diastollc, as occurs in isolated systolic hypertension, therefore, increases the pulse pressure. Once considered to be harmless, an elevation of the pulse pressure is now thought to lead to future health problems. In other words, a high pulse pressure is considered an important precursor or indicator of potential end-organ damage. Thus. an isolated systolic hypertension is associated with a 2 to 4 times increased future risk of an enlarged heart, a heart

attack (myocardial infarction), a stroke (brain damage), and death from heart disease or a stroke. Clinical studies in
patients with isolated systolic hypertension have indicated that a reduction in systolic blood pressure by at least 20 mm to

a level below 160 mm Hg reduces these increased risks. http://www.medicinenet.com/highbloodpressme/page2.htm



General Discussion

00 the results definitively answer the question posed?

What are some concerns you might have before you recommend that everyone with isolated systolic hypertension eat chocolate every day?