If you would like to try your hands at safe and fun interactive tutorials on how to conduct some standard molecular biology techniques then you will want to visit Genetics Learning Center of the University of Utah. I spent a couple of hours last night reviewing their website. Particularly interactive was their Biotechniques Virtual Laboratory where I conducted three experiments virtually.
- I extracted DNA from cheek cells of a person.
- I separated DNA species using gel electrophoresis.
- I used a fancy technique called DNA Microarray to show that cancer cells express different proteins than normal non-cancer cells.
I did all that stuff and had fun doing it. I found that the material presented in these Flash animations was excellent. Clearly these tutorials were well thought out. There is a good balance between underlying biochemical theory and laboratory practice; motion was used in the animation to show microscopic zooming and to give users a feel for operating scientific equipment; audio is used to augment the motion in the animations and to supply authentic sounds of scientific equipment; the combination of useful motion, audio and interactive tasks for the user gives these tutorial a game-based feel which clearly makes them fun; and the DNA Microarray tutorial even had some self-assessment questions at the end of it to ensure that users correctly understood how to interpret the results of their experiment.
Apart from the three excellent tutorials in the Biotechniques Virtual Laboratory, there are a plethora of other learning and teaching resources on this same website, including full lesson plans for modules on hot topics such as cloning, gene therapy, pharmacogenetics and stem cell research. (Note: primarily targeted for the K-12 demographic.)
If you are a rabid CSI fan or closet molecular biologist, you’ll want to bookmark this website!