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A BMB laboratory course is an essential component in the training of undergraduate students for careers in biochemistry, molecular biology, and related molecular life sciences such as the neurosciences, cell biology, and genetics. This course provides students the opportunity to learn how new knowledge is created and what it means to function as a biochemist. The skills and knowledge learned in BMB laboratory courses prepare students for future participation in undergraduate research and graduate school research and for jobs in the pharmaceutical industry, the broad biotechnological fields, and in the academic environment.

Although a practical laboratory in BMB is offered at most colleges and universities in the world, the teaching styles used in these classes varies broadly, and can range from expository instruction (sometimes called the cookbook approach) to experience in an intensive research environment [1]. The effectiveness of the various laboratory teaching styles has been evaluated in numerous studies leading to changing pedagogies in recent years [2, 3]. Many instructors now chose to use student-centered learning styles such as PBL, research-based learning, process guided inquiry learning (POGIL), and other activities that apply high-impact educational practices [4, 5].

Here, we present the special section: Innovative Laboratory Exercises for 2013.This is the fifth year we have published the series with a primary goal to provide examples of laboratory projects that introduce activities based on modern BMB themes in a creative, pedagogically significant manner, preferably using student-centered teaching styles [6].

The series of papers included this year are the outcrop of joint efforts between the Genomics and Bioinformatics Education Program at the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute led by Professor Cheryl Kerfeld—who provides the introduction to the series, and faculty from a variety of higher education institutions [7]. Contributors include: Kelynne Reed and John Richardson from Departments of Biology and Chemistry at Austin College, TX; Beagley Tim from the Department of Biology, Salt Lake Community College, UT; Jayna Ditty, Kayla Williams, and Megan Keller from the Department of Biology, University of St. Thomas, MN, jointly with Grischa Chen, Xianxian Liu, and Rebecca Parales from the Department of Microbiology, University of California-Davis, CA; and Casey Shapiro, Carlos Ayon, Jordan Moberg-Parker, Marc Levis-Fitzgerald, and Erin Sanders—collaborating faculty from three programs at the University of California-Los Angeles: Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program, Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics, and the Center for Educational Assessment.

As this series illustrates, cross-disciplinary interactions between biochemistry and molecular biology with other fields such as microbiology and genetics are essential for advancement of scientific progress and are beneficial for students and educators to think beyond traditional disciplinary borders.

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