P518: Bridging the gap between life and physical sciences using nucleic acid chemistry and biotechnology
Students are typically more exposed to the results of cellular activity than the actual methods of the genetic process. Genetics-based laboratories, transformation in particular, greatly increases understanding of the link between what a cell can and cannot do based on the presence of a gene, forging a critical link between the genetic code and protein structure and function. Further work with PCR and restriction digestion enhances student understanding of replication processes, but also deepens awareness of genetic structure and its relevance to cell products. As a result of attendance at cCWCS workshops on biotechnology and nucleic acid chemistry, a laboratory curricula sequence was created to introduce students to biotechnology in the freshman and sophomore biology sequence and nucleic acid chemistry in the general and organic chemistry sequences. Students now explore DNA extraction and restriction enzyme analysis in biology, and apply these techniques in the chemistry sequence by studying the effect of intercalation on DNA binding as well as the synthesis of nucleotides. Here we report preliminary results on the success of integrating these technologies into the curriculum as well as early student response to the experiments.