5 Engaging Ways to Teach Protein Denaturation that Get Students Excited

Anjaney Kothari

Protein denaturation is a phenomenon that most of us observe every day. Curdling milk, cooking meat, making an omelet – all involve protein denaturation using different methods like exposure to heat or acid. While protein denaturation gives us some phenomenal, delicious foods, what goes on at the molecular level to make this possible?

The molecular changes associated with protein denaturation are complex and multifactorial. How, then, can educators help students relate to protein denaturation and its underlying biology in an engaging way? Here, we list five engaging ways to teach students about protein denaturation so they can easily learn this topic.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

While protein denaturation may seem trivial because of its frequent occurrence, its mechanisms are wide-ranging and complex. Interactive models, which can provide a unique close-up view of protein denaturation, can best explain these mechanisms to students.

Take Labster’s protein denaturation simulation, for example. Our interactive simulation teaches the students about:

·       Protein denaturation and how amino acid side groups govern protein structure.

·       The physical and chemical causes of protein denaturation.

·       The physical manifestations (like changes in texture) of protein denaturation.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities can be awe-inspiring sources of knowledge. They can turn a boring theoretical topic into a fun, application-oriented group exercise, which can help enhance learning.

You can engage your students in a bunch of exciting food-related activities to teach protein denaturation. For example, bring some eggs to the classroom and ask your students to whip the egg whites to make meringue. The ones to do it first get bragging rights! As the students twist and turn their arms to whip the egg whites, talk to them about how the mechanical force of whipping denatures egg white proteins and helps in the formation of the white stable foam we use in our desserts. Similarly, you can perform a milk curdling activity wherein students mix lemon juice in boiling milk to curdle it.

3. Accelerate Learning by Incorporating Technology

When teaching topics like protein denaturation, educators can benefit from technologies that help visualize the phenomenon at a magnified scale. Advanced technologies, like animation and simulation, allow the students to visually interact with the subject matter at the molecular level. This aids in learning and nurtures scientific imagination.

For example, in Labster’s protein denaturation simulation, students enter a virtual lab to perform various immersive experiments using ovalbumin. They use physical and chemical methods to denature this egg protein. The simulation technology further helps the students visualize the molecular aspects of protein denaturation at close quarters.

Discover Labster's protein denaturation virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Both educators and students benefit from an in-depth career exploration related to a topic of study. Educators benefit from it because they are able to inspire their students to learn. Students benefit from this career exploration because they can envision prospective professional opportunities that learning the topic can offer them.

When teaching protein denaturation, you can talk to your students about how biologists use it when preparing samples for denaturing gel electrophoresis. Discuss how food scientists utilize their knowledge of protein denaturation to explain the texture and taste of certain foods. Talk about how enzymologists worry about safeguarding enzymes against protein denaturation so they can retain their catalytic activity.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

A discussion of the real-world applications of a topic helps demonstrate its relevance in day-to-day life. When a scientific concept is easily demonstrable and relatable, students tend to learn it faster and remember it for longer.

For example, talk to your students about the role of protein denaturation in curdling of milk and formation of cheese. Tell them how the acidic environment in the stomach helps digest proteins by denaturing them at the low surrounding pH. Discuss how alcohol in some cosmetics denatures any proteinaceous content and prevents unwanted enzymatic activity that could affect product stability.

Final thoughts

Protein denaturation is fundamental to food science and biochemistry. By using the methods we have discussed here, you can make it an engaging and memorable topic of study.

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