Asee peer logo

Board # 6 :Making an Introductory Tissue Culture Lab Course Accessible to Novice Students (Work in Progress)

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Dianne Grayce Hendricks University of Washington

visit author page

Dr. Dianne G. Hendricks is a Lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Washington, where she leads the Bioengineering Outreach Initiative, Bioengineering Honors Program, and the Bioengineering Summer Camp in Global Health. She holds a PhD in Genetics from Duke University, and BS in Molecular Biology and BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Hendricks’ teaching activities at the University of Washington include introductory and honors courses in bioengineering, tissue and protein engineering lab courses, bioengineering ethics, leadership, and bioengineering capstone writing and design courses. She is committed to enhancing diversity and inclusivity in engineering, and creating opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in K-12 educational outreach. Dr. Hendricks has over a decade of experience leading educational outreach and summer camp programs at both Duke University and the University of Washington.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Work-in-Progress: Making an Introductory Tissue Culture Lab Course Accessible to Novice Students

The ability to culture and manipulate mammalian cells in a sterile environment is a valuable skill for all bioengineering students. However, tissue culture labs are not found in many bioengineering curricula due to cost and space requirements. In addition, these labs require a great deal of time and effort by both instructor and students; cells must be observed, fed, and passaged several times per week. Finally, working in a tissue culture lab with living cells involves specialized safety training. For these reasons, many students and instructors do not find tissue culture lab courses appealing.

We sought to change this by overhauling a tissue culture lab course to make it more accessible to students with no prior tissue culture or “wet lab” experience, such as early undergraduate bioengineering students and graduate students who transitioned to bioengineering PhD programs from other science or engineering disciplines without strong biology backgrounds (for example, electrical engineering or physics).

In this work-in-progress, we describe the first offering of a revised course, Introduction to Tissue Culture Laboratory Techniques. In this lab makeover, we significantly changed the lab format, lecture content, lab protocols, expectations, and grading policies in order to engage novice students. The instructor observes striking improvements in overall student engagement, mastery of techniques, teamwork, and confidence in lab performance. These observations are supported by student feedback in the form of written reflection in lab reports, informal communication with instructor, and end-of-course student surveys.

Lecture and lab topics include: sterile technique, micropipetting, characteristics of cultured cells, viewing cells under inverted phase contrast microscope, counting cells with a hemacytometer, feeding and passaging cells, thawing/freezing cultures, measurement of cell proliferation (MTT assay), effects of antibiotics, hanging dropo, co-culture, cell fusion (GFP + Neomycin resistance in HeLa cells), and transfection (gWIZ-GFP and pCMV-Neo in HeLa cells).

We implemented several changes that seem to increase student engagement, preparedness, and confidence level in the lab. These include: 1. Requiring students to draw a figure (graphical snapshot) describing their overall plan or strategy for this lab, including any type of schematic (flow chart, diagram, etc.) and any important volumes, time limits, etc. 2. Student reflection at the end of every lab report where students articulate something they learned and feel confident with, and also anything that is still unclear. 3. Guided post-lab analysis, including asking students to analyze hypothetical results or asking students how the results would have been affected if they had made a hypothetical mistake in the procedure.

In conclusion, Introduction to Tissue Culture Laboratory Techniques provides training in fundamental tissue culture techniques and is intended for students with no prior tissue culture and/or wet lab experience. This course is ideal for students in bioengineering and related fields who are preparing for research involving tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In this work-in-progress, several innovations are described and assessed for the first offering of this revised course.

Hendricks, D. G. (2017, June), Board # 6 :Making an Introductory Tissue Culture Lab Course Accessible to Novice Students (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27887

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015