5 Engaging Ways to Teach MALDI and Its Applications

Anjaney Kothari

Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization, or MALDI, is a method as complex and sophisticated as its name. In combination with time-of-flight (TOF) mass spectrometry, MALDI has countless applications in the world of quantitative and qualitative biomolecular analysis. These applications range from cancer diagnosis and microbial identification to genetic disorder screening and forensic analysis.

But given the complexity of the sample preparation process and the equipment itself, teaching MALDI can be a tough job. Educators need some stimulating teaching methods to engage their students with this technique and inspire them to apply it. Here, we list five ways to teach MALDI to your students in an engaging and stimulating manner.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Interactive models, whether physical or virtual, can allow students to actively participate in conducting MALDI. This way, the students can gain some much-needed hands-on training on the experimental and data analysis techniques involved.

For example, you can provide your students with mass spectrometry data and ask them to identify a protein of interest. This will allow the students to practice MALDI data analysis and interpretation in an interactive way. It will also help connect MALDI to advanced data analysis methods like bioinformatics. You can also conduct MALDI sample preparation sessions where the students can bring a biological sample of their choice. The sample could be food, or nails, or even a strand of hair!

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities can pull the students out of the dullness of conventional classroom teaching, bringing them together in a stimulating collaborative and competitive arena. Incorporating some games and activities in your lecture can keep students excited about the subject matter and ease learning.

Take Labster’s MALDI simulation, for example. Our simulation creates a gamified environment that captivates the students with its mission-like charm. The students must work with a doping agent to investigate the possibility of recombinant human erythropoietin doping among bicycle athletes. By the end of this 15-minute simulation, the students will be able to identify if an athlete has been cheating.

MALDI virtual lab, matrix solution being added to the prepared urine samples.

3. Infuse Technology into the Lesson

Technologies like simulation, animation, and virtual reality have elevated the classroom experience and made it more realistic and immersive. These advanced technologies also allow the students to get quick feedback and learning support, which increases the pace of learning.

Labster’s MALDI simulation, for example, uses a few of these advanced technologies to enhance learning:

·   3D animation to explain the function of kidneys and the pathophysiological effects of chronic kidney disease.

·   Creation of a virtual lab environment where students perform the motions of MALDI sample preparation, mass spectrometry and data analysis.

Further, this simulation presents an interactive quiz for the students to test their knowledge of MALDI. The quiz helps the students test their knowledge in a fun environment devoid of the pressures of the conventional classroom.

Mass spectrometry histogram in a virtual lab.
Discover Labster's MALDI virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Understanding how a certain topic of study aligns with their career goals can help students personalize their learning experience. They will exhibit a heightened interest in communicating with the educator about their doubts and questions regarding the topic. This, in turn, will enhance their learning.

To inspire your students to learn about MALDI, tell them how microbiologists regularly use MALDI to identify microorganisms. Inform them how clinical diagnosticians use MALDI to diagnose infectious diseases using blood culture samples. Tell them how oncologists use MALDI for cancer diagnosis using specific biomarkers.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

Students will become more motivated to learn a complex experimental technique when they know about its significant real-world applications. Connect MALDI to its real-world applications to engage your students with this topic.

Talk to your students about how MALDI helps identify microorganisms in a variety of patient samples. Tell them how MALDI helps in forensic analysis of trace evidence at a crime scene. Discuss with them the role of MALDI in drug discovery and development.

Final thoughts

MALDI is an evolving bioanalytical technique that is finding new uses in a variety of fields every year. The teaching methods we have discussed here can make MALDI exciting and easy to grasp for your students.

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