Durham University saves time and money using Labster

Durham University

Durham University saves time and money using Labster

Durham University

An “ethical alternative” to teach archaeogenetics

Dr. Eva Fernandez-Dominguez is an Associate Professor at Durham University, teaching archaeogenetics to Archaeology students. She has been using Labster for over five years with about 50 students in different undergraduate and postgraduate programs across the university. Dr. Fernandez-Dominguez acquired Labster pre-pandemic and has continued to use the tool! 

Read on to read more about how:

  • Dr. Eva Fernandez-Dominguez saves time and money using virtual labs
  • Labster is an ethical alternative to handling human and animal remains
  • Virtual labs are used as a supplement and substitute

“Labster is an ethical alternative because students still learn the process of analyzing human and animal DNA, but they’re not sampling human or animal remains.”

Dr. Eva Fernandez-Dominguez

Associate Professor

Selected simulations:

  • PCR extraction
  • Next Generation Sequencing
  • Mendelian Inheritance: From genes to traits
  • Animal genetics 
  • Lab safety

Problem: There are laboratory processes that students cannot do in the classroom due to cost, time, and ethical issues, such as PCR and Next Generation Sequencing. Students needed to learn how to analyze human and animal DNA, but the techniques involved were destructive.

Solution: Labster provided Next Generation Sequencing and Polymerase Chain reaction simulations, where students can learn processes quickly, cost-effectively, and ethically. 

An interview with Dr. Eva Fernandez-Dominguez, Associate Professor

Labster is more cost and time effective 

"I use one of Labster’s simulations for Next Generation Sequencing, which is very useful. It’s the kind of scientific approach that we use in my field of expertise. NGS is something that we cannot reproduce in the lab with all the interested students because it's costly and time-consuming. It also involves different steps, and it is difficult to teach using purely a theoretical approach.“

Student response to Labster

“They like the video game interface a lot. They say it's amazing and they haven't seen anything like it. Students like how interactive it is and enjoy the explanations that come with the different processes. They particularly enjoy seeing the processes that take place inside the tube that are invisible to the eye, they love seeing the molecules moving and the polymerase copying the DNA.”

Labster as a supplement and substitute 

“Sometimes we use Labster as a pre-lab, sometimes a post-lab, and other times as a substitute for lab practicals. We show them in the lab how to extract their own DNA, how to do PCR and purification of PCR products. But we cannot replicate all the steps involved in library preparation and Next Generation Sequencing because they are really lengthy and can be very expensive. So in that case, NGS just replaces the laboratory practical.”

An ethical alternative

“Labster is an ethical alternative because students still learn the process of analyzing DNA from archaeological samples without destruction.”

Playing simulations in the classroom

“Students may be able to attempt virtual labs individually at home, but I found that we should encourage them to take the simulations in class. If you just timetable some time in the classroom and then put them there, and you are around to support them.”

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