Biotech Virtual Learning – Agarose Gel Electrophoresis

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Taking lab courses that are only VIRTUAL requires some creativity on the part of the student if you really want to prepare yourself for a job. To review agarose gel electrophoresis, I used a FREE VIRTUAL SIMULATION.

Praxilabs.com simuation guides you through the steps of separating DNA fragments by size via electrophoresis.

You begin with preparing the agarose gel by combining the gel powder with TAE buffer, heating and cooling it, and then adding a dye. I like that the activity includes setting up the electrophoresis device along with having to enter the voltage before running the experiment.

These simulations do have their challenges – absolultely no moving forward until you properly cap the bottles and discard your used pipette tips! Once you figure this out, the simulations run a lot more smoothly.

Once the device is set up, you prep the DNA samples and pipette them into the wells of the gel tray. I got stuck for a bit with the requirement to put a dark object underneath the gel to make it more visible so I had to go to the YouTube video to figure out what to do there.

The simulation ends with you using a UV Transilluminator to see the separated DNA fragments. However, the lab ends rather abruptly with only brief glimpse of the stained fragments. That was disappointing! But otherwise, I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.

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Learning Biotech in a Pandemic!

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Trying to change careers into biotechnology during a pandemic has its challenges – the biggest that my in-person lab courses are completely virtual! I found that it was really necessary for me to supplement my coursework with my own investigations into the basic laboratory techniques that I would otherwise be performing in-person if the college would allow it. I am sharing how I organized my own learning as it may be helpful to others in my situation, so I’m posting the resources I am using for each technique.

Virtual Learning about Protein Electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE)

There are a lot of videos on YouTube that probably do a great job of explaining protein electrophoresis, but I can’t watch them all and so I had to just choose (eeny-meeny-miny-moe style). I ended up using the videos of two sources for most of my lab education: YouTube channel “Biomedical and Biological Sciences” and “Bio-Rad Laboratories”. I find the videos to be well-made, completely on-topic and not too long for my attention span!

Videos:

1. The principle of SDS PAGE-a full and clear explanation of the technique and how does it work – – explains how this type of electrophoresis separates proteins by molecular weight. Explains separating and stacking gels, how to prepare the protein samples with denaturation buffers, the key role of SDS detergent and the other components of the buffer.

2. SDS-PAGE of Fish Muscle by Bio-Rad – shows all the steps for setting up the electrophoresis device and removing the gel and moving it to a staining tray.

Virtual Simulation:

Praxilabs.com – Protein Electrophoresis (Polyacrylamide Gel Electrophoresis – PAGE). This simulation is NOT free, but I purchased a one-month subscription for only $9.99 so I could do 8 different simulations.

Simulation Details: This simulation has me prepare the polyacrylamide separating and stacking gels, load the gels, fill the device with electrophoresis buffer, add loading buffer to each sample and then fill the wells with the protein standard and the four samples.

It begins with prepping the glass plates, and includes using vortex mixers and water baths, along with the electrophoresis tank and power supply.

OPTIONS:  You can see what the simulations are like in two ways: 

1. Video versions of many of their simulations are on YouTube. These are really helpful in case you get stuck on a step. I could not find one for this exact simulation, but there is one for Agarose Gel Electrophoresis.

2. The simulation for this technique is also FREE at praxilabs.com so try it out there too!