Special Section: Innovative Laboratory Exercises
Commentary: Innovation in the biochemistry/molecular biology lab
Article first published online: 22 JAN 2009
Copyright © 2009 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
Volume 37, Issue 1, pages 24–25, January/February 2009
How to Cite
Boyer, R. and Wolfson, A. (2009), Commentary: Innovation in the biochemistry/molecular biology lab. Biochem. Mol. Biol. Educ., 37: 24–25. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20248
- Issue published online: 22 JAN 2009
- Article first published online: 22 JAN 2009
- Manuscript Received: 14 OCT 2008
Biochemistry/molecular biology (BMB) is an experimental science. Our understanding of the molecular nature of life processes originates in the laboratory, where data on biomolecules and their actions are collected, analyzed, and interpreted. What students and instructors read in textbooks, journal research articles, and technical books was discovered in the laboratory. It is imperative that students gain an appreciation for this compulsory link between laboratory activities and the growth and maturing of the scientific knowledge base of biochemistry/molecular biology. Thus, students in the discipline must be provided opportunities to learn and practice the experimental methods accompanying BMB. A formal biochemistry lab course is now offered at most colleges and universities in the world and has become an essential component in the training of students for careers in biochemistry, chemistry, molecular biology, and related molecular life sciences such as cell biology, genetics, and physiology . A lab course provides students with the skills needed for future research participation at the undergraduate and graduate levels and for jobs in the biotechnological and pharmaceutical industries. A lab experience is also an asset for those science majors preparing for careers in law, medicine, and business which may be related, but outside the realm of the basic sciences (patent law, health professions, pharmaceutical sales, etc.).
With the acknowledged importance of a teaching lab, it is necessary for instructors to think carefully about the elements that make up an effective and pedagogically engaging BMB laboratory experience for students. Perhaps, the best way to begin the design of a lab curriculum is to answer the following questions:
- (a)How can lab sessions be constructed so as to give students practice in designing experiments, interpreting data, and understanding the limits of the experimental approach?
- (b)What technical skills and procedures should be practiced and mastered by students?
- (c)What instrumentation should undergraduate students become familiar with?
- (d)What teaching styles work best to most effectively train students in the lab?
- (e)What is the importance of the “other lab skills” such as communication (written and oral), teamwork, ethics, and responsibility? How are these best taught?
In this issue we initiate a new feature, “Innovation in the BMB lab,” that introduces readers to modern concepts and techniques for teaching BMB labs (pp. 000). Our goal in this new series is to help instructors think about lab design in the context of the questions raised earlier, and also to provide examples of experiments that may be incorporated into their own lab curriculum. The series was initiated by posting this request for manuscripts on the Council on Undergraduate Research Listserve (curl): “We seek manuscripts that describe lab activities based on modern themes presented in an innovative, unique way, preferably using active learning styles (inquiry-based instruction, discovery-based instruction, problem-based instruction, project-based instruction, research-based instruction) [2–4]. The projects may be designed for a single lab session, several lab sessions, or a 1–2 semester course. We have a preference for topics and teaching methods that are current, but have not yet received wide coverage in educational journals and lab manuals.”
Eight manuscripts were received for review from which four were selected for publication. We hope instructors and students find the articles useful, and we welcome manuscripts and suggestions for future articles in this series.
The BAMBED Lab Series for 2009
RNase one gene isolation, expression, and affinity purification models research experimental progression and culminates with guided inquiry-based experiments (Cheryl P. Bailey; Department of Biochemistry, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE).
Identifying gel-separated proteins using in-gel digestion, mass spectrometry and database searching: consider the chemistry (Jessica C. Albright, David J. Dassenko, Essa A. Mohamed, and Douglas J. Beussman; Department of Chemistry, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN).
Vertical and horizontal integration of bioinformatics education: A modular, interdisciplinary approach (Laura Lowe Furge, Regina Stevens-Truss, D. Blaine Moore, and James A. Langeland; Departments of Chemistry and Biology, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, MI).
A new way to introduce microarray technology in a lecture/laboratory setting by studying the evolution of this modern technology (Melissa Rowland-Goldsmith; Department of Biological Sciences, Chapman University, Orange, CA).
- 42007) Teaching the biochemistry lab. Available at http://www.aw-bc.com/boyer.(