The Kjeldahl method of protein quantification is a complex multi-step technique with immense use in the food and dairy industries. Samples must sequentially undergo digestion in concentrated sulfuric acid (at 420°C!), distillation into boric acid, and titration with hydrochloric acid.
These steps not only make the Kjeldahl method tedious, but also potentially hazardous. Thus, it is highly important for beginners to learn the safest and the most efficient way to implement this method. Here, we list five ways to teach the Kjeldahl method of protein quantification to your students in an engaging and stimulating manner.
Interactive models are impeccable tools to teach experimental techniques without actually consuming much time or resources. They have the power to simulate a variety of scenarios that can help students grasp and implement an experimental technique.
Take Labster’s Kjeldahl method simulation, for example. In around 45 minutes, this simulation interactively guides the students through all the steps of the Kjeldahl method. The students safely (and virtually!) measure nitrogen content in milk samples, using the obtained values to determine the protein content. Additionally, the students use liquid chromatography/ tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to check if the milk samples have any adulterants.
Games and activities can make a topic more enjoyable and easier to follow for the students. Educators can design novel games and activities to teach experimental techniques as well as data analysis.
For example, you can use an engaging group activity to teach your students how to convert nitrogen content (that the Kjeldahl method provides) into protein content:
· You can provide your students with some interesting protein structures and ask them to count the nitrogen atoms.
· The students can work in groups to calculate the percentage of nitrogen content in the protein.
· This factor can then help them convert nitrogen content into protein content when using the Kjeldahl method.
Technology in education offers a way to provide truly personal learning experiences to students. For example, technologies like simulation and virtual reality make learning personalized, interactive and immersive. As such, these technologies make it simpler for educators to teach difficult experimental procedures, like the Kjeldahl method, to students.
Labster’s Kjeldahl method simulation, for example, teaches not only the protocol for the method, but also its limitations. The students learn why the Kjeldahl method is not suitable for protein quantification in melamine-doped milk. They further apply this knowledge to determine if the milk samples in the virtual lab have adulteration.
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Generally speaking, the more complicated an experimental technique, the lesser the students’ motivation to learn and perform it. How, then, can educators motivate their students to learn challenging techniques, like the Kjeldahl method? Career exploration is a failsafe way to inspire students to learn even highly complex topics. This involves talking to the students about how learning a topic can prove to be useful in an exciting career.
For example, tell your students how food chemists use the Kjeldahl method to quantify protein content in different food products. Talk to them about how dairy chemists and quality control personnel measure protein content in milk using the Kjeldahl method.
To excite your students about a topic of study, discuss with them the real-world applications of what they are learning. This discussion will help them develop a newfound respect for the subject matter. It may even guide the students towards a new career path that they had never thought about earlier.
To inspire your students to learn the Kjeldahl method, tell them how it helps determine the amount of protein in milk powder and other foods and beverages. Share with them the health benefits of knowing the protein content in a food product.
The Kjeldahl method of protein quantification may be indirect and difficult, but it is still undeniably useful in many industries. The teaching methods we have discussed here can make the Kjeldahl method fun to learn and implement for your students.
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