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How to Prepare Students for a Biochemistry Lab

Ginelle Testa
Biochemistry
Teaching with Labster

Preparing students to learn more in a biochemistry laboratory doesn’t have to be challenging. 

Have you tried a flipped lab approach to teaching? Students watch a video, do a simulation, or prepare for the practical lab with homework. Upon getting to class, they’re more knowledgeable about the topic and can dive right in. We’ve recommended a virtual lab for each option to prepare students. 

1. Prep them with a safety lesson

Safety is essential for every lab. Biochemistry labs are filled with potentially dangerous equipment and chemicals. By teaching students proper handling and PPE guidance, you want students to avoid fires, burns, toxic fumes, and other hazards. 

One way to give them a safety lesson is to use Labster’sLab Safety simulation, where students identify the different hazards they might encounter in an unsafe laboratory. They’ll be introduced to the lab dress code, safety equipment, and the do's and don'ts of working in a lab. The most significant benefit to a virtual lab safety simulation is that students can make mistakes without consequence during the simulation so they won’t make them later!

2. Introduce them to enzymes

Enzymes are central to learning biochemistry because they “help speed up chemical reactions in the human body. They are essential for respiration, digesting food, muscle and nerve function, among thousands of other roles” (1). Too many or too few enzymes can cause health issues. 

In Labster’s Immunology virtual lab: Immunoassay for detecting SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, students undertake a serological investigation and perform an enzyme-linked immunoassay on serum samples to detect the presence of IgG and IgM antibodies related to SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Immunology GIF

3. Have a lesson on health and disease

Health and disease are core to learning biochemistry, which explores the chemical processes related to living organisms. Biochemists often study carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids as the most common macromolecules in relation to how they impact the body.

The student’s goal in Labster’s Carbohydrates virtual lab is to learn how carbohydrates are digested and utilized by the body as an energy source. They’ll use the in-lab molecule visualizer to study the chemical structure of sugars and learn the basics of molecule structures and chemical formulas. They’ll also perform an experiment and get a sense of how amylase breaks down starch. A 3D animation will visualize the molecular process of carbohydrate digestion.

4. Show them how to use a spectrophotometer 

The spectrophotometer is an unsung hero of many important discoveries in biochemistry and other subjects because it determines the biomolecule concentration of a solution. The  Beer-Lambert-Bouguer Lawis application often helps determine the concentration of DNA, RNA, and other proteins (3).

In Labster’s Spectrophotometers simulation, students will explore the mechanics at the heart of the technique. They’ll actually have a chance to build it! During the spectrophotometer building mission, they can try out different configurations and see how they impact the lightpath used to measure a sample -- all without worrying about expensive mistakes.

ENF GIF

5. Teach them about Gel Electrophoresis

DNA is part of a biochemistry lab, and gel electrophoresis separates DNA fragments by size. It can be challenging to see this process up close. This is where virtual labs can be helpful!

During Labster’s Gel Electrophoresis simulation, students will solve a crime by using DNA fingerprinting to identify a thief. They’ll use nucleic acid gel electrophoresis to separate and visualize DNA molecules and watch an animation to understand what happens inside the gel tank.

6. Let them practice the ELISA technique

ELISA is a commonly used biochemistry assay. Trying to capture a specific protein amongst thousands of types of proteins is like looking for a needle in a haystack. With ELISA, you can detect and quantify substances, such as proteins. 

Help a scientist detect and quantify proteins! In Labster’s ELISA simulation, Dr. Lisa is working on producing protein used for treating hemophilia patients. The protein is called Factor IX. She produces them in different cell lines. However, she needs the students’ help to determine which cell lines produce Factor IX the most. To help Dr. Lisa, they’ll perform an ELISA technique.

elisa 1

In Sum

We hope these 6 ways of preparing students for a biochemistry lab are helpful!

If you want to try these labs or any of our other 300+ simulations, try our all 30-day access educator’s pass

Sources:

(1) Medical News Today (2022). Enzymes: How they work and what they do. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319704

(2) Muhammad, U. (2017). Biochemistry is the most powerful and sustainable tool for the improvement of health, reduction in poverty and hunger in the world. 2nd International Conference on Biochemistry. Retrieved from: https://www.walshmedicalmedia.com/proceedings/biochemistry-is-the-most-powerful-and-sustainable-tool-for-the-improvement-of-health-reduction-in-poverty-and-hunger-in--39214.html

(3) Trumbo TA, Schultz E, Borland MG, Pugh ME. Applied spectrophotometry: analysis of a biochemical mixture. Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2013 Jul-Aug;41(4):242-50. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20694. Epub 2013 Apr 27. PMID: 23625877. Retrieved from https://iubmb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/bmb.20694