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Biotechnology And Bioprocessing And Microbiology Laboratory Courses: A Model For Shared Use Of Instructional Laboratories Between Engineering And Science

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Inter- and Multidisciplinary Laboratories

Tagged Division

Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.254.1 - 13.254.20



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Paper Authors


Susan Sharfstein Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Susan Sharfstein is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her research interests are in mammalian cell culture for bioprocessing. Her teaching interests are in biotechnology and biochemical engineering and in integrating engineering and life science education. Professor Sharfstein received her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley. She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award whose educational component focused on undergraduate laboratory development.

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Blanca Barquera Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Blanca Barquera is an Assistant Professor of Biology and Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her research interests are in energy transduction in microorganisms, particularly Vibrio cholerae. She received her Ph.D. in biology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

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Michael Hanna Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Michael Hanna is an Associate Professor of Biology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He also serves as Co-Director of the Accelerated Physician/Scientist Program, Associate Dean of Academic Advising, Assessment and Special Programs, Director of the Advising & Learning Assistance Center, and Chair of the PreHealth Professions Committee. His research interests include slime mold development, in vitro gene evolution, mutagenesis, and protein engineering. He has taught all levels of undergraduate and graduate courses in biology over the past 29 years at RPI. Most recently, he has been involved in curricular design for a novel introductory biology course. Professor Hanna received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Illinois.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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

Sharfstein, S., & Barquera, B., & Hanna, M. (2008, June), Biotechnology And Bioprocessing And Microbiology Laboratory Courses: A Model For Shared Use Of Instructional Laboratories Between Engineering And Science Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3474

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