June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
13.254.1 - 13.254.20
Biotechnology and Bioprocessing and Microbiology Laboratory Courses: A Model for Shared Use of Instructional Laboratories between Engineering and Science
Laboratory courses are highly resource intensive, both in development and renovation of laboratory space and purchase and maintenance of laboratory equipment. As novel technologies such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and semiconductor processing enter into engineering research, there is a strong demand to provide exposure to these areas at the undergraduate level in the context of an engineering program rather than in biology, chemistry or physics courses. Ideally, that exposure would include a laboratory component; however, it is often prohibitively expensive to acquire the instrumentation necessary for these courses. Moreover, undergraduate engineering laboratories are often poorly designed for small-scale experiments, having been built to accommodate large pieces of equipment.
In developing a biotechnology and bioprocessing laboratory course for the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, we encountered many of these challenges. Our traditional senior/unit operations laboratory contained a large distillation column, pumping equipment, and a heat exchange experiment with limited bench space for small scale microbiology and molecular biology manipulations. We had received funding from the School of Engineering and the Merck Foundation to purchase equipment; however, the funds were insufficient to purchase all of the desired equipment.
In examining existing teaching laboratories on campus, including chemistry laboratories, a molecular biology laboratory, and a microbiology laboratory, we discovered that the Biology Department had recently renovated laboratory space and purchased new equipment for the microbiology course with a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This renovated space contained a number of large pieces of equipment such as shakers and incubators as well as electrophoresis equipment. As only one section of the microbiology course was taught annually, the laboratory was underused. By negotiation between the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering and the Department of Biology, we were able to share the laboratory space. With funds from the Provost and School of Engineering as well as the funds from the Merck Foundation, we were able to renovate additional preparatory laboratory space, including purchase of a large autoclave and water purification system that was not previously available in the building as well as providing shared equipment such as a teaching microscope and a high speed floor centrifuge.
Description of courses taught
Biotechnology and Bioprocessing Laboratory
The Biotechnology and Bioprocessing Laboratory is an optional section of the required senior laboratory in Chemical and Biological Engineering. All students take the traditional laboratory in the fall semester and have the option of taking the traditional lab or the biotechnology lab in the spring semester. The experiments in this course have been designed to represent the process by
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