2018-19 TLTM Award Winners:
Gena Nichols (PI), Bethany Lucas, Max Boeck, Jennifer Grier
Microvolume Molecular Spectroscopy in Biology Laboratory Classes
SummaryImplementation of microvolume molecular spectroscopy in biology laboratory courses will greatly increase our experimental capabilities. In many of our teaching labs, including Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Microbiology, our students isolate and analyze DNA or protein samples from their experiments. Often, the success of future experiments in the lab hinges on the quantity and quality of the material isolated, and small errors can result in lost hours or days in a research lab - meaning lost weeks in a teaching lab that meets once a week. The methods to assess DNA or protein quantity currently employed in our teaching labs require either a significant amount of time to prepare or a large quantity of the material, which can be costly to generate. In addition, neither of these options provides a definitive means of assessing the purity of the sample or the presence of contaminants. A microvolume molecular spectrophotometer, such as the NanoDrop Lite from ThermoFisher, can assess the purity of a sample and determine DNA, RNA, or protein concentration in just a few seconds from a miniscule amount of sample.
As an example of implementation: in the genetics lab, we could induce DNA mutations using the CRISPR/Cas9 system, isolate the DNA, quantify the DNA concentration in less than 1 (one) minute using the NanoDrop, and move quickly to sequencing the mutation. An ever-increasing number of techniques in biology incorporate DNA or protein analysis such that a NanoDrop spectrophotometer would be utilized multiple times a semester in a variety of different laboratory courses and in independent student research. The NanoDrop Lite is also equipped with USB capability so that the data can be saved electronically - reducing the risk of a student losing handwritten data, allowing for easy sharing of sample data between laboratory partners, and increasing the accessibility of the data to students with disabilities. The NanoDrop technology would greatly improve our laboratory capabilities, allowing us to spend less time on sample assessment and more time teaching our students cutting-edge techniques.