5 Engaging Ways to Teach Protein Synthesis to Help Students Learn

Anjaney Kothari

Protein synthesis, a critical piece in the central dogma of molecular biology, plays a crucial role in determining the structure and function of living beings. It is an elaborate process that involves translation of mRNA into amino acid sequences, protein folding, and post-translational modifications. Each step of protein synthesis depends on a host of cogs in the cellular machinery, which adds to its complexity.

Given the intricate nature of protein synthesis, educators must find creative and engaging ways to teach it. Here, we list five engaging ways to teach protein synthesis to help students learn.

1. Engage Students with Interactive Models

Interactive models turn the classroom into a makeshift laboratory, where students get a first-hand experience of the wonders of science. This experience helps the students to grasp difficult concepts faster and apply them better.

When educators use interactive models to teach topics like protein synthesis, they offer their students a memorable glimpse into a nanoscale world. There are numerous interactive methods that can help teach the intricacies of protein biology to students. For example, you can introduce your students to a protein structure prediction software. The students can interactively play with the protein’s primary structure and simultaneously visualize how it will affect the tertiary structure. You can also use skeletides – or modular, physical models of protein secondary structure – to explain protein architecture to your students.

2. Make the Topic Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities connect with students in a robust manner that conventional classroom teaching may never do. This connection enhances the transfer of information and knowledge that the games and activities intend to provide.

Take Labster’s protein synthesis simulation, for example. Our simulation takes the students on a mission to test for doping among bike athletes. The students must use mass spectrometry to identify athletes who may be using recombinant human erythropoietin as a doping substance. In the process, they learn all about protein synthesis, structure, and post-translational modifications.

Showing protein in a virtual lab setting.

3. Infuse Technology into Lessons

Advanced technologies, like animation, simulation and virtual reality, allow students to imagine and visualize subcellular, nanoscale phenomena. Moreover, they have the power to explain the theoretical concepts just as easily as the practical aspects of a subject.

For example, Labster’s protein synthesis simulation uses 3D animation to teach students the theoretical and practical aspects of protein synthesis. Through elaborate animations, students:

·   Learn how ribosomes translate codons into amino acids and connect different amino acids with peptide bonds.

·   Explore the different levels of protein structure – primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary.

·   Apply their theoretical knowledge to produce recombinant erythropoietin in microbial and mammalian cells.

·   Use mass spectrometry to analyze the recombinant erythropoietin.

Mass spectrometry histogram.
Discover Labster's protein synthesis virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students Through Career Exploration

Your students will develop a newfound respect for a topic of study if they know about the industries it supports and the career opportunities it offers. Thus, educators should consider taking a deep dive into career exploration with their students.

For example, tell them how professionals in biofuels production and food processing industries use protein synthesis to produce essential enzymes. Talk to them about how the pharmaceutical industry uses recombinant DNA technology to synthesize therapeutic proteins like insulin and antibodies.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

Connecting your teaching material to real-world applications can make students aware of the significance of learning and education. It can also encourage them to engage with the content more closely and ask questions to understand the topic better.

Here are some examples of how you could connect protein synthesis to its applications in the real world:

·   Share with your students the role of protein synthesis in the development of protein-based vaccines against COVID-19 and hepatitis B.

·   Tell them how protein synthesis using recombinant DNA technology helps in the treatment of diseases like diabetes and cancer.

Appreciating these noteworthy real-world applications of protein synthesis can bring the students closer to the subject matter.

Final thoughts

Protein synthesis is one of those crucial but complex molecular biology topics that require the use of innovative teaching methods. The teaching techniques we have listed here can help your students learn about protein synthesis in exciting new ways.

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