A real-time and hands-on research course in protein purification and characterization: Purification and crystal growth of human inosine triphosphate pyrophosphatase


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A new lecture/laboratory course to offer advanced biochemical training for undergraduate and early graduate students has been developed in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. This unique course offers students an opportunity to work hands-on with modern instrumentation not normally found in a predominately undergraduate institution, and to complete an entire research project in a realistic timeframe via a time-intensive curriculum as a special summer session. The course content gives a strong background in protein structure/chemistry, purification principles, protocol development, optimization strategies, use and programming of an automated chromatography instrument, and characterization strategies with an emphasis on X-ray crystallography. The laboratory portion offers students the chance to purify a protein (human inosine triphosphate pyrophosphatase) from start to finish, program and use an ÄKTA fast protein liquid chromatography instrument, and to grow and analyze their own protein crystals using their purified protein. This innovative laboratory experience gives the participating students the opportunity to complete a miniresearch project in real time and enhances their overall understanding of important biochemical research techniques and the instrumentation involved, fostering a better understanding of the research process all within a classroom setting. Evaluations and feedback concerning this course indicated a positive learning environment, a retention of knowledge and skills, a belief that the skill set learned continues to be useful in current endeavors, and a sense of accomplishment in the completion of an actual research project within the confines of a class setting. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 28–37, 2011