Graduate Studies


Date of this Version

Summer 6-24-2015


Troupe G. 2015. Genetic engineering online lessons improve teaching and increase knowledge and accepting attitudes among students. M.S. Thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Agronomy, Under the Supervision of Professor Donald J. Lee. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 Grace C. Troupe

*** A public-access version of this thesis is now available at *** (9 Nov 2022)


Genetic engineering has been used in the production of food in the U.S. for nearly three decades, however, science literacy in genetic engineering among consumers is still low. To address this problem, an online resource called The Journey of a Gene ( was created to help incorporate genetic engineering education in high school and college curriculums. Here we report two studies conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of The Journey of a Gene in 1) improving student knowledge and attitudes about genetic engineering and 2) helping teachers increase their knowledge as well as quantity and quality of genetic engineering instruction. In the first study, we surveyed nearly 900 students and found that the online resource was effective in increasing student knowledge and shifting student attitudes to become more accepting of genetic engineering technology. This increase in accepting attitudes varied by gender, background, and trust in government safety regulation. Our results demonstrate that genetic engineering attitudes are not static, but can become more positive through education. In the second study, we demonstrate how The Journey of a Gene addresses common teaching barriers to help six Nebraska high school agriculture teachers a) increase the time spent on genetic engineering in the classroom, b) improve the quality of genetic engineering learning as measured by a shift from learning the controversy to learning the scientific process, enabling students to evaluate the controversy, and c) improve teacher knowledge of genetic engineering. Based on these positive outcomes, we suggest that future funding be allocated to equipping and training teachers in genetic engineering education. Education is a key component to help consumers make informed decisions about purchasing products derived through genetic engineering and make societal decisions about advancing genetic engineering research.

Adviser: Donald J. Lee