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Keywords:

  • Undergraduate;
  • protein purification;
  • research experience;
  • Taq polymerase

Abstract

We have developed a 9-week undergraduate laboratory series focused on the purification and characterization of Thermus aquaticus DNA polymerase (Taq). Our aim was to provide undergraduate biochemistry students with a full-semester continuing project simulating a research-like experience, while having each week's procedure focus on a single learning goal. The laboratory series has been taught for the past 7 years, and survey-based assessment of the effectiveness of the laboratory series was completed during the 2006 and 2007 fall semesters. Statistical analysis of the survey results demonstrate that the laboratory series is very effective in teaching students the theory and practice of protein purification and analysis while also demonstrating positive results in more broad areas of scientific skill and knowledge. Amongst the findings, the largest reported increases in knowledge were related to students' understanding of how patent law relates to laboratory science, a topic of great importance to modern researchers that is readily discussed in relation to Taq polymerase. Overall, this laboratory series proves to be a very effective component in the curricula of undergraduate biology and chemistry majors and may be an appropriate laboratory experience for undergraduates.