8 Essential Biotechnology Labs Skills for Career Building

Ginelle Testa

Career readiness is always on the minds of students and teachers, both at the high school and university levels. As students think about future career tracks in biotechnology, specific skills are needed to build up their readiness. They can begin thinking about them in the classroom.

We’ve identified eight essential biotechnology lab skills. Each lab skill is for biotechnology career building, and we’ve included accompanying virtual labs to help instructors teach them. 

1. Pipetting

Pipetting is used in a wide range of biotechnology applications, including DNA and protein analysis, cell culture, and drug discovery. It is a critical skill for any biotechnologist to master.

In Labster’s simulation, Pipetting: Master the technique, students will determine the amount of essential amino acids in genetically modified corn. Using a micropipette, they’ll prepare a serial dilution and measure the protein concentration with a Bradford assay.

Mastering pipetting in a virtual lab simulation.

2. Gel Electrophoresis

Gel electrophoresis is important to biotechnologists because it allows them to analyze the structure and function of macromolecules, such as DNA, RNA, and protein. It is used to analyze the structure and function of DNA, RNA, and proteins and to identify mutations or other changes in these molecules.

In Labster’s simulation, Gel Electrophoresis: Visualize and separate nucleic acids, students will learn how they can use DNA fingerprinting to identify individuals. They’ll use gel electrophoresis to separate and visualize DNA fragments.

3. Western blot

Western blots are used to analyze the presence and expression of specific proteins in a variety of samples, such as cells, tissues, and body fluids. It’s also used to identify changes in protein expression or function, which can be important for understanding biological processes and for developing new drugs and therapies.

In Labster’s simulation, Western Blot Transfer: Prepare for protein detection, students will use Western blot to compare the level of p53 protein in cancerous and healthy control cells. 

Western blot transfer in a virtual lab simulation.

4. Molecular cloning

Molecular cloning is crucial for biotechnologists because it allows them to isolate, manipulate, and study specific genes or DNA sequences. It’s also used to produce large amounts of specific proteins for use in research or for therapeutic purposes.

In Labster’s simulation, Molecular Cloning, students will learn how to assemble an expression vector containing RAD52 and GFP. The aim is to control the expression level of RAD52 with Doxycyline and to monitor the expression level by observing the GFP signal.

5. Flow Cytometry

Flow cytometry allows biotechnologists to quickly and accurately measure a wide range of parameters on many cells or particles simultaneously. It’s used to analyze the physical and chemical characteristics of cells or particles and to identify and isolate specific populations of cells or particles for further study. It is also used to study cell function and monitor drug effectiveness and other treatments.

In Labster’s simulation, Fluorescence-automated Cell Sorting (FACS), students will learn the basics of flow cytometry and find out how to use a flow cytometer with fluorescence detection.

FACS simulation helping students understand on a microscopic level with fluorescence detection.

6. Mass Spectrometry

Mass spectroscopy is used to identify and characterize small molecules, such as drugs and metabolites, as well as larger molecules, such as proteins and peptides. It is also used to study molecules' structure and function and monitor the effectiveness of drugs and other treatments.

In Labster’s simulation, Mass Spectrometry: The race of the fastest fragment, students will dive into a virtual laboratory to discover the secrets of mass spectrometry. From the structure of the instrument to the interpretation of different spectra, no fragmentation pattern will remain a mystery to them.

7. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

PCR is used to produce large amounts of specific DNA sequences for a variety of purposes, such as DNA sequencing, gene expression analysis, and genotyping. It’s also used to amplify and study ancient or degraded DNA samples and to diagnose genetic diseases.

In Labster’s simulation, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), students will be thrown right into a crime scene where a murder has taken place. After investigating the crime scene, their first task is to collect blood samples in the hope that the murderer has left traces of their DNA.

Mixing primers, nucleotides, and purified DNA in the PCR tube in a virtual lab simulation.

8. Enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA)

ELISA is used to detect and quantify specific proteins or antigens in a variety of samples, such as cells, tissues, and body fluids. It’s also used to diagnose diseases and monitor the effectiveness of drugs and other treatments.

In Labster’s simulation, ELISA, students will join scientists using a groundbreaking technique for detecting and quantifying substances such as proteins. The method is called Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). They’ll help Dr. Lisa quantify Factor IX protein, which is used for hemophilia drugs.

Questions For Consideration:

  • What are some other ways your biotechnology students learn career readiness skills?
  • What are other biotechnology skills students will need to know? Try a search of Labster’s catalog to discover virtual labs that match each skill.

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