Teaching a Bioseparations Laboratory: From Training to Applied Research
Daniel Forciniti, Cbe, Missouri University of Science and Technology, 1870 miner circle, cbe-umr, Roll, MO 65409
One of the problems in the teaching of many laboratories is the lack of direct participation of students in the experiments. This trend has become more acute as the instrumentation used in laboratories becomes more and more expensive. Moreover, we start evaluating the students during their basic learning process increasing tensions in the classroom and leaving little room for errors. We decided a few years back to attempt to alleviate this situation by dividing our Bioseparations Laboratory into two parts. During nearly the first half of the semester, the students learn the fundamentals of various separations techniques (mainly membrane filtration and chromatography) as well as auxiliary experiments (for example, centrifugation, spectroscopy, use of pH and conductivity meters, gel electrophoresis etc.). This portion of the semester consists of six to 8 short experiments (one week each) in which the students follow recipes and write technical reports in scientific journal format. There is not penalty for failure as long as they have been careful in their work. Close interaction with the instructor (not a T.A.) is absolutely necessary at this stage. After they have passed the training part, they start a project that consists of a cascade of operations. Examples of projects that we have included in our lab are the isolation of human antibodies from transgenic corn, isolation of alcohol dehydrogenase from yeast, and isolation of coagulation factors from human plasma. During the second part of the semester the participation of the instructor is minimal, the students are responsible to keep the supplies available, disposal of waste, and the working hours are free. Their objective is to finish successfully their project. Because they have been trained before they start the project, it is their responsibility to repeat unsuccessful experiments in their own time. It is required that the students change the operation conditions to determine their effect on yield and purity by using elements of experimental desing. Different groups are assigned different projects, a student is designated as the leader of the group and him or her reports to the instructor. The acceptance of the approach by the students changes from year to year and it depends heavily on their quality.