Mary Gates Endowment For Students

TEXTILE: Tutorials in EXperimentalisT Interactive LEarning

Faculty PI:

Elizabeth Nance, Ph.D.

Immediate Mentor/Supervisor:

Nels Schimek

Project or Start-Up Company Name:

TEXTILE: Tutorials in EXPerimentalisT Interactive LEarning

Lab/Project Website:

Work Location:

Benson Hall, Room 239

Work Hours (include recurring team meetings, special events, etc.):

  • Hours on M-F: 10 AM – 6 PM
  • Optional work from home day (as long as it is a day free of scheduled in-person meetings)
  • Mandatory attendance:
    • Lab meeting
    • TEXTILE Lessons and Office Hours: Mon-Thurs 4 PM – 5:30 PM

Overall Program Goal:

TEXTILE is an educational framework that guides the creation of module-based lessons for the current research on brain cell analysis in the Nance lab. Modules are individual lessons that consist of four parts: pre-module activities, main modules, post-module reflections, and feedback forms. Major module sets are designed as linear curricula that end with a lesson to reproduce a recent scientific advancement or analysis. Meanwhile, the supplementary module sets are designed as linear curricula to support fundamental information necessary for research end-goals in data science, coding, or domain-specific science. While each module set is designed linearly, they also work as standalone modules or as a “pick-and-choose” lesson plan, lending the TEXTILE program its semi-linear nature.

The current online TEXTILE curriculum teaches analyses applied to two types of data obtained from the Disease Directed Engineering Lab (PI: Elizabeth Nance): multiple particle tracking data and brain cell morphology data. The curriculum consists of five linear pathways: data science, image processing, machine learning, wet-lab tutorials, and research-specific knowledge. Additionally, an outreach version of TEXTILE was developed, adding panels and workshops for designing career plans, developing independent research skills, and exploring ethical issues. In its current form, TEXTILE is the basis for a more extensive online learning platform for researchers using data science techniques to analyze real-world problems and data.

Next Key Steps: 

  1. Improving the online platform hosting modules and increasing our capacity for asynchronous learning
  2. Developing project-based learning to go alongside our modules
  3. Expanding to modules to other research areas and laboratories

Intern Project Description and Responsibilities:

An undergraduate student will work alongside our current graduate students to develop and test three “Further Exploration Projects” for our existing lessons: (1) Experimental Design for Cell Research, (2) Machine Learning to Study Cell Populations in a Rat Brain Model, and (3) Path Exploration for Research-Based Careers. The student will be onboarded with the current TEXTILE curriculum, meet with the TEXTILE team regularly to outline goals and deliverables, and present deliverables to TEXTILE members at the end of summer. 


  1. Work alongside the current TEXTILE team to build and test materials for Futher Exploration Projects. 
  2.  Attend Weekly Lab Meetings
  3.  Attend TEXTILE lessons and office hours


Previous Python experience and research related to cell biology preferred. 

Level of Independence:

The project is highly independent and open-ended. Students interested in STEM education and particularly neuroscience/engineering for health are preferred. The student will work with the current TEXTILE team from the Nance Lab: Hawley Helmbrecht, Nels Schimek, and Phuong Nguyen.

Learning Opportunities:

  1. Student will learn brain cell analysis and basic image processing, machine learning, and immunofluorescent cell imaging
  2. Student will develop educational materials for project-based STEM learning  
  3. Student will collaborate closely in an interdisciplinary research environment to produce deliverable training materials for researchers at various levels (9-12, undergraduate, and graduate levels)