Biotechnology

Biotechnology


Biotechnology is a rapidly growing field that uses research tools from biology and chemistry to find solutions to current scientific problems. Some biotechnology professionals look for the genetic basis of disease or factors that affect lifespan. Others focus on solving food shortages, the climate crisis, or criminal investigations.
 
These resources explore common laboratory techniques used for treating disease and improving diagnosis, and examine the ethical debate over such research. Career profiles demonstrate the multifaceted nature of biotechnology jobs and the wide range of opportunities in this field.
 
  • Longevity Genes

    What is the secret to a long life? Hear from scientists using biotechnology to analyze relationships between specific genes and longevity in this video from NOVA scienceNOW. While mutations in specific genes seem to provide some groups of people with built-in protection against age-related disorders such as diabetes and heart disease, the amount of food one eats may also promote longevity by triggering a family of genes called sirtuins into action. Researchers are looking to develop drugs that will ward off disease and thereby promote longer life.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Reverse Evolution Machine

    This video adapted from KQED's QUEST examines one scientist's efforts to understand the DNA of extinct creatures so as to better understand the diversity of life today. Professor David Haussler works in the field of computational genomics, which relies on computers to reconstruct the genome of ancient creatures for which DNA is not preserved in fossils. By essentially running evolution in reverse, he scans the genomes of organisms that haven't changed over very long periods of time but then suddenly change, resulting in new species that evolve differently from one another.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Running an Agarose Gel

    Gel electrophoresis is a powerful technique used to quickly analyze samples for variations in the DNA molecules they contain. While not nearly as precise as decoding an entire genome, gel electrophoresis uses molecular variability to match biological samples to their sources with a great deal of accuracy. However, as this video from the University of Leicester demonstrates, the technique is only as good as the procedures used to conduct the analysis.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Genetic Engineering and Working with DNA

    The technique illustrated in this animation produced by WGBH and Digizyme, Inc., shows how scientists use natural processes and technological innovations to insert genes into loops of DNA called plasmids. Plasmids can then be introduced into bacterial or other cells, which will proceed to replicate the inserted genes or induce the cells to produce such valuable proteins as human insulin and growth hormone. This resource is part of the Biotechnology collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Careers In Biotechnology

    In this interactive activity produced by WGBH, learn about the vital role biotechnology professionals serve in health care, and explore the wide range of jobs available in the following career paths: research and development, manufacturing and production, quality control and assurance, and clinical research. Read job descriptions, education and experience requirements, and testimonials from people working in entry-level as well as senior-level positions.

    Grades: 8-12
  • Career Profile: Associate Scientist Andres Berrio

    Andres Berrio is an associate scientist with the biotechnology company, Biogen. In this video produced by WGBH, Andres talks about his career path, his background as an unmotivated student, the guidance counselor who helped turn his life around, his discovery that he liked learning, and what it takes to succeed in the biotechnology field.

    Grades: 6-12
  • DNA Sequencing

    In this interactive activity adapted from the Dolan DNA Learning Center, examine the techniques geneticists use to read a sequence of DNA fragments. Sequencing enables scientists to analyze DNA and ultimately piece together the genomes of living organisms. The activity features Fred Sanger's original sequencing method, developed in 1977, and an automated version of Sanger's method that uses computers to read and interpret data. This newer technique provides a faster and more reliable means of sequencing.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Protein Purification Lab in the Classroom and in Real-World Research

    In this video produced by WGBH, high school and middle school students participating in the Amgen Biotech Experience use real-world research equipment and techniques to separate a genetically engineered protein from other molecules in a cell. As an industry research scientist explains, this process—called protein purification—is commonly used in research and development of disease therapies. The video also explores some of the reasons people have for choosing a career in science, including the rewards of knowing their work is helping others.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Using Biotechnology to Detect and Treat Disease

    In this media-rich lesson, students learn how biotechnology's techniques and tools are being used to help identify and fight disease, and examine the ethical and privacy issues associated with genetic testing.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Personal DNA Testing

    In this video from NOVA scienceNOW, take a behind-the-scenes look at the process of personal DNA testing, and hear more about the innovative Personal Genome Project.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Plating

    Learn how to plate transformed cells onto an agar plate using proper aseptic technique in this video produced by WGBH. Using a micropipette, a lab technician dispenses P- and P+ cells onto three separate agar plates and then carefully spreads the cells using bacterial cell spreaders. After letting the agar plates sit for at least five minutes so the liquid can be absorbed, she inverts the plates and stacks them.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Unclogging a Column

    If after opening the stopcock during column preparation, the stopcock fails to flow or is flowing slowly, there may be particulate matter blocking the sieve. In this video produced by WGBH, watch how the resin can be redistributed by picking up the column or by using a pipette to mix the solution.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Pouring an Agarose Gel

    A lab technician shows how to properly pour an agarose gel into a casting tray in this video produced by WGBH. She also demonstrates solutions that are appropriate when the equipment has been compromised from heavy use.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • DNA Libraries

    In this interactive resource adapted from the Dolan DNA Learning Center, learn about DNA libraries, the tools scientists use to store and reproduce genetic information that they can later access for their research. The interactive resource features five different types of DNA libraries. Each gets its name from the type of molecule or organism used to host DNA segments of varying lengths.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Gel Electrophoresis

    In this interactive activity from the Dolan DNA Learning Center, learn about gel electrophoresis, the standard technique that makes comparative analysis of DNA samples possible. The activity demonstrates, step by step, the process in which DNA fragments are sorted by size as they move through an electrically charged gel matrix.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Ethanol Biofuel

    Discover ethanol, a cleaner-burning fuel alternative to gasoline, and the efforts to produce it more efficiently in this video segment adapted from NOVA. Today, most ethanol in the United States is made from corn kernels. But converting corn into ethanol requires lots of energy as well as corn, which might otherwise be used to feed people and livestock. The video features research efforts to use less valuable plant matter, called cellulosic biomass, and microorganisms that may be able to accomplish the conversion from plant matter to fuel in a single step.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Biotechnology Student Profile

    Meet Daphnee, a high school student with an interest in biotechnology in this video segment adapted from Pathways to Technology. Daphnee takes afterschool classes at a community college to learn more about this field. Daphnee invites us along on her job-shadowing experience at a biotechnology company, where she observes a biotechnician at work and asks questions that will help her decide if the career field may be right for her.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Loading an Agarose Gel

    Learn how to properly load samples into an agarose gel and avoid mistakes in the process in this video produced by WGBH.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Protein Purification

    In this animation produced by WGBH and Digizyme, Inc., we learn how protein purification separates and isolates a protein of interest from other contents of transformed bacterial cells that have undergone lysis. The animation explains the steps involved in a technique called hydrophobic interaction chromatography (HIC), which ultimately yields a solution that is highly enriched with the protein of interest.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Tissue Engineering

    This video segment from Design Squad features the work of Howard Pryor, a tissue engineer and doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Pryor demonstrates a device he is working on to replace diseased livers. He explains the challenges of artificially engineering a human organ, including getting blood to flow through a device for processing just as it would through a liver. He also details the design process. This resource is useful for introducing components of Engineering Design (ETS) from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to grade 9-12 students.

    Grades: 9-13+

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