5 Engaging Ways to Teach Cancer Sample Preparation for Mass Spectrometry

Anjaney Kothari

The analytical technique of mass spectrometry plays a vital role in many areas of biological and chemical research. Oncology is one such area of research, where mass spectrometry finds applications in cancer diagnosis, staging, and therapeutic analysis.

But mass spectrometry is a highly complex technique – not only experimentally, but also theoretically. To add to the challenge, applying mass spectrometry in cancer research is all the more complex. It involves very specific sample extraction and preparation protocols, as well as advanced molecular analyses.

Educators thus need to look for engaging methods to teach the different steps in mass spectrometry, including cancer sample preparation. Here, we list five engaging ways to teach cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry.

1. Use Interactive Models to Keep Students Engaged

Interactive models can bring the complex world of biology to the students’ fingertips. With a single click, the students can zoom in or out of molecular and cellular structures and learn their nuances. Plus, the use of interactive models can greatly reduce the time it takes for students to assimilate a scientific concept.

For example, Labster’s mass spectrometry simulation provides an interactive simulated environment for students to explore all steps of mass spectrometry. From sample extraction and biopsy preparation to mass spectrometry data analysis, the students do it all – in under 45 minutes! Additionally, the students can visualize the molecules involved in protein phosphorylation – implicated in many cancers – in full 3D view.

mass spectrometry setup in a virtual lab.

2. Make Learning Fun with Games and Activities

Games and activities encourage students to become open to collaborative learning and vocalize their observations. At the same time, they allow students to learn independently at their own pace even while working in a team. Consider using some fun games or activities to teach mass spectrometry to your students. 

For example, you can ask your students to do group presentations on a mass spectrometry application of their choice. The students will have to demonstrate all mass spectrometry steps, including sample preparation, in an innovative way. This could be a simple slideshow, an animation, or even a physical model or demonstration, depending on the group’s creativity.

3. Infuse Technology into Lessons

Without the assistance of technologies like simulation and virtual reality, students may struggle to grasp the complexities of mass spectrometry. Educators should leverage these technologies to train their students on mass spectrometry sample preparation and data analysis.

Take Labster’s mass spectrometry simulation, for example. Here, students must identify the stage of colon cancer in a patient by analyzing the phosphorylation pattern of specific proteins. Our simulation simplifies this complex procedure by converting it into a multi-step virtual lab experience. The students learn even the most basic steps in mass spectrometry by conducting them virtually. These include phosphopeptide enrichment, enzymatic digestion, cell lysis, protein purification, and compound identification from mass spectrometry data.

Kinase and substrate bonds in virtual lab.
Discover Labster's mass spectrometry virtual lab today!

4. Inspire Students by Discussing Career Opportunities

Career-building is a great motivating factor for students to pay attention to a topic that they may otherwise find tedious. Educators can inspire their students to learn about mass spectrometry by discussing the many career opportunities that this field offers.

For example, tell your students how cancer researchers regularly employ mass spectrometric techniques to identify novel markers of the disease. Discuss the role of mass spectrometry as a diagnostic tool in various kinds of clinical laboratories.

5. Connect Topic to Real-World Applications

When educators discuss the applications of their subject matter, they keep the students connected with reality. They let their students know that studying a certain topic can have far-reaching effects on the real world. Such discussions of real-world applications can also help make mass spectrometry an exciting topic of study.

For example, tell your students how mass spectrometry helps in profiling clinical specimens from cancer patients. This profiling helps identify unique biomarkers that can become suitable diagnostic and/or therapeutic targets. Discuss with your students how mass spectrometric analysis of the proteome can help improve cancer classification and staging. Talk about the relevance of cancer classification and staging in determining the most adequate treatment modality.

Final thoughts

Mass spectrometry, with its many experimental and data analysis steps, is one of the most complex analytical techniques out there. The five methods we have discussed here can help you teach mass spectrometry, particularly in the context of cancer research, to your students in an engaging manner.

Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and teach with the Cancer Sample Preparation for Mass Spectrometry simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!
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