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  • Students participating in the peer review process. Practicing the writing of scientific manuscripts prepares students to understand and engage in the primary literature they encounter.
  • Students at Century College use gel electrophoresis to analyze PCR samples in order to detect a group of ampicillin-resistance genes.

    Antibiotic Resistance Genes Detection in Environmental Samples

    Learning Objectives
    After completing this laboratory series, students will be able to:
    • apply the scientific method in formulating a hypothesis, designing a controlled experiment using appropriate molecular biology techniques, and analyzing experimental results;
    • conduct a molecular biology experiment and explain the principles behind methodologies, such as accurate use of micropipettes, PCR (polymerase chain reaction), and gel electrophoresis;
    • determine the presence of antibiotic-resistance genes in environmental samples by analyzing PCR products using gel electrophoresis;
    • explain mechanisms of microbial antibiotic resistance;
    • contribute data to the Antibiotic Resistance Genes Network;
    • define and apply key concepts of antibiotic resistance and gene identification via PCR fragment size.
  • Hydrozoan polyps on a hermit-crab shell (photo by Tiffany Galush)

    A new approach to course-based research using a hermit crab-hydrozoan symbiosis

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • define different types of symbiotic interactions, with specific examples.
    • summarize and critically evaluate contemporary primary literature relevant to ecological symbioses, in particular that between hermit crabs and Hydractinia spp.
    • articulate a question, based on observations of a natural phenomenon (in this example, the hermit crab-Hydractinia interaction).
    • articulate a testable hypothesis, based on their own observations and read of the literature.
    • design appropriate experimental or observational studies to address their hypotheses.
    • collect and interpret data in light of their hypotheses.
    • problem-solve and troubleshoot issues that arise during their experiment.
    • communicate scientific results, both orally and in written form.
  • Neutrophils in a Danio rerio Embryo. Student-generated picture of a wounded zebrafish embryo that was stained to show the neutrophils (small black dots) that had migrated toward the wound site on the fin.

    Inexpensive Cell Migration Inquiry Lab using Zebrafish

    Learning Objectives
    Students will:
    • formulate a hypothesis and design an experiment with the proper controls.
    • describe the steps involved in the zebrafish wounding assay (treating zebrafish embryos with drugs or control substances, wounding the embryo, staining the embryo, and counting neutrophils near the wound).
    • summarize results into a figure and write a descriptive figure legend.
    • perform appropriate statistical analysis.
    • interpret results in a discussion that draws connections between the cytoskeleton and cell migration.
    • put data into context by appropriately using information from journal articles in the introduction and discussion of a lab report.
  • Experimental design schematic
  • CRISPR/Cas9 in yeast experimental overview

    CRISPR/Cas9 in yeast: a multi-week laboratory exercise for undergraduate students

    Learning Objectives
    Week 1: CRISPR design
    • Locate the coding sequence, flanking sequence, protein product, and characteristics of a given gene from the Saccharomyces Genome Database (
    • Design and defend the design of guide RNA and single stranded template for DNA repair in CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing studies to generate Saccharomyces cerevisiae auxotrophic mutants.
    Week 3-4: Cloning
    • Describe the qualities of the vector, pML104, that allow replication and selection in bacteria and yeast as well as allow expression of necessary factors in CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, including Cas9 and sgRNA.
    • Describe the rationale of and perform procedures necessary for cloning a small cassette (i.e., sgRNA gene) into a vector (i.e., pML104) including; restriction digest, annealing of DNA strands, removal of 5’ phosphates, ligation, and transformation.
    • Recognize and design appropriate controls for cloning procedures such as ligation and transformation.
    Week 5: Screening clones
    • Describe the method of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), including the rationale for essential components of a reaction mixture and thermal-cycling conditions.
    • Locate the binding sites of and design primers for PCR, then report the expected size of the amplification product.
    • Describe and perform isolation of plasmid DNA from E. coli.  
    Week 6: Selection of clones and transformation of yeast
    • Describe the rationale for and perform procedures to transform yeast, including the essential components of a transformation mixture and conditions necessary for transformation.
    • Describe the basic conditions required for cultivating yeast.
    • Describe the rationale for and perform agarose gel electrophoresis of a given size of DNA.
    • Analyze DNA separated by agarose gel electrophoresis, including size estimation.
    • Recognize and describe the qualities of a template for DNA repair that allows efficient DNA repair. 
    Week 7: Phenotyping
    • Design an experiment to determine auxotrophic phenotypes.
    • Predict the outcome of multi-step experiments.
    • Recognize and describe conditions necessary for growth of E. coli and S. cerevisiae.
    • Qualitatively and quantitatively analyze scientific data from scientific experiments, including bacterial and yeast transformation, agarose gel electrophoresis, extraction of plasmid DNA from bacteria, PCR, and auxotroph phenotypic analysis.
    • Communicate science to peers through maintenance of a laboratory notebook, verbal communication with group members, and writing of a formal laboratory report written in a format acceptable for journal publication.
    • Troubleshoot scientific protocols by identifying procedures that are prone to error, comparing recommended protocols to actual procedure, and using positive and negative controls to narrow the location of a potential error.
    • Communicate specific potential or actual uses of CRISPR/Cas9 in science and/or medicine.
    Alignment with Society-Generated Learning Objectives - From Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Genetics Learning Frameworks
    • Use various bioinformatics approaches to analyze macromolecular primary sequence and structure.
    • Illustrate how DNA is replicated and genes are transmitted from one generation to the next in multiple types of organisms including bacteria, eukaryotes, viruses, and retroviruses.
    • Define what a genome consists of and how the information in various genes and other sequence classes within each genome are used to store and express genetic information.
    • Explain the meaning of ploidy (haploid, diploid, aneuploid etc.) and how it relates to the number of homologues of each chromosome. 
    • Predict the effects of mutations on the activity, structure, or stability of a protein and design appropriate experiments to assess the effects of mutations.
    • Predict the growth behavior of microbes based on their growth conditions, e.g., temperature, available nutrient, aeration level, etc.
    • Discuss the benefits of specific tools of modern biotechnology that are derived from naturally occurring microbes (e.g. cloning vectors, restriction enzymes, Taq polymerase, etc.)
    • Accurately prepare and use reagents and perform experiments.
    • When presented with an observation, develop a testable and falsifiable hypothesis.
    • When provided with a hypothesis, identify the appropriate experimental observations and controllable variables.
  • Abelson kinase signaling network. The image shows many connections between genes and illustrates that signaling molecules and pathways function within networks. It emphasizes the indispensability of computational tools in understanding the molecular functioning of cells. The image was generated with Cytoscape from publicly accessible protein-protein interactions databases.

    Investigating Cell Signaling with Gene Expression Datasets

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Explain the hierarchical organization of signal transduction pathways.
    • Explain the role of enzymes in signal propagation and amplification.
    • Recognize the centrality of signaling pathways in cellular processes, such as metabolism, cell division, or cell motility.
    • Rationalize the etiologic basis of disease in terms of deranged signaling pathways.
    • Use software to analyze and interpret gene expression data.
    • Use an appropriate statistical method for hypotheses testing.
    • Produce reports that are written in scientific style.
  • ACTN3 from

    The ACTN3 Polymorphism: Applications in Genetics and Physiology Teaching Laboratories

    Learning Objectives
    1. Test hypotheses related to the role of ACTN3 in skeletal muscle function.
    2. Explain how polymorphic variants of the ACTN3 gene affect protein structure and function.
    3. List and explain the differences between fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers.
    4. List and explain possible roles of the ACTN3 protein in skeletal muscle function.
    5. Find and analyze relevant scientific publications about the relationship between ACTN3 genotype and muscle function.
    6. Formulate hypotheses related to the relationship between ACTN3 genotype and skeletal muscle function.
    7. Design experiments to test hypotheses about the role of ACTN3 in skeletal muscle function.
    8. Statistically analyze experimental results using relevant software.
    9. Present experimental results in writing.
  • Adult female Daphnia dentifera. Daphnia spp. make a great study system due to their transparent body and their ease of upkeep in a lab.

    Dynamic Daphnia: An inquiry-based research experience in ecology that teaches the scientific process to first-year...

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • Construct written predictions about 1 factor experiments.
    • Interpret simple (2 variables) figures.
    • Construct simple (2 variables) figures from data.
    • Design simple 1 factor experiments with appropriate controls.
    • Demonstrate proper use of standard laboratory items, including a two-stop pipette, stereomicroscope, and laboratory notebook.
    • Calculate means and standard deviations.
    • Given some scaffolding (instructions), select the correct statistical test for a data set, be able to run a t-test, ANOVA, chi-squared test, and linear regression in Microsoft Excel, and be able to correctly interpret their results.
    • Construct and present a scientific poster.
  • A A student assists Colorado Parks & Wildlife employees spawning greenback cutthroat trout at the Leadville National Fish Hatchery; B greenback cutthroat trout adults in a hatchery raceway; C tissue samples collected by students to be used for genetic analysis (images taken by S. Love Stowell)

    Cutthroat trout in Colorado: A case study connecting evolution and conservation

    Learning Objectives
    Students will be able to:
    • interpret figures such as maps, phylogenies, STRUCTURE plots, and networks for species delimitation
    • identify sources of uncertainty and disagreement in real data sets
    • propose research to address or remedy uncertainty
    • construct an evidence-based argument for the management of a rare taxon
  • Possible implementations of a short research module

    A Short Laboratory Module to Help Infuse Metacognition during an Introductory Course-based Research Experience

    Learning Objectives
    • Students will be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of data.
    • Students will be able to employ prior knowledge in formulating a biological research question or hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to distinguish a research question from a testable hypothesis.
    • Students will recognize that the following are essential elements in experimental design: identifying gaps in prior knowledge, picking an appropriate approach (ex. experimental tools and controls) for testing a hypothesis, and reproducibility and repeatability.
    • Students will be able to identify appropriate experimental tools, approaches and controls to use in testing a hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to accurately explain why an experimental approach they have selected is a good choice for testing a particular hypothesis.
    • Students will be able to discuss whether experimental outcomes support or fail to support a particular hypothesis, and in the case of the latter, discuss possible reasons why.
  • DNA

    Using CRISPR-Cas9 to teach the fundamentals of molecular biology and experimental design

    Learning Objectives
    Module 1
    • Generate a testable hypothesis that requires a creative design of reagents based on critical reading of and review of prior research.
    • Demonstrate proficiency in using molecular cloning software to analyze, manipulate and verify DNA sequences.
    • Predict the downstream effect on the mRNA and protein after successfully inserting a DNA repair template into the genome of a cell/organism.
    • Compare and contrast the processes of DNA duplication and PCR.
    • Demonstrate the ability to design primers to amplify a nucleotide sequence.
    • Analyze and evaluate the results of DNA agarose gel electrophoresis.
    Module 2
    • Identify the key features in genomic DNA, specifically those required for CRISPR-Cas9 mediated gene edits.
    • Explain how compatible ends of DNA are used to produce recombinant DNA in a ligation reaction.
    • Explain the chemical principles behind plasmid DNA purification from bacterial cultures.
    • Devise a strategy to screen clones based on antibiotic selection and the mechanism of digestion by DNA endonucleases.
    • Predict and evaluate the results of a diagnostic digest.
    Module 3
    • Explain the chemical principles behind DNA purification using phenol-chloroform extraction and ethanol precipitation.
    • Explain the key differences between DNA duplication and transcription.
    • Demonstrate the ability to perform lab work with sterile technique.
    • Compare and contrast the results of a non-denaturing vs. denaturing agarose gel.
    • Evaluate the results of a denaturing agarose gel.
    Module 4
    • Design and implement an experiment that tests the CRISPR-Cas9 principle.
    • Predict the outcome of a successful in vitro Cas9 digest.
    Presentation of Data Post Lesson
    • Summarize important background information on gene of interest from analysis of primary literature.
    • Produce figures and figure legends that clearly indicate results.
    • Organize and construct a poster that clearly and professionally displays the important aspects of the lesson.
    • Demonstrate understanding of the lesson by presenting a poster to an audience in lay terms, mid-level terms, or at an expert level.
    • Demonstrate understanding of procedures by writing a formal materials and methods paper.