Introduction to Biotechnology

Unit 1

This unit will provide historical context to the field of biotechnology including a survey of the industry, applications of biotechnology, steps in the production and delivery of recombinant DNA products, and the bioethical implications of these techniques. As this is a career-based experience, students will be using highly specialized equipment and laboratory procedures that are identical to a professional laboratory. As such, biotechnology lab safety and aseptic technique will be emphasized in this introductory unit in preparation for various laboratory investigations that will be conducted throughout the course. 

Thank you to the individuals and companies for donating funds and materials for this course and to Dawn Zuba for facilitating the connection.

21st Century Capacities: Perseverance

DNA/Protein Structure and Function

Unit 2

This unit will begin with an overview of macromolecules with a focus on nucleic acids including both their structure and function. Students will then take a closer look at the mechanisms of both DNA replication and protein synthesis. Students will perform lab experiments which apply this content, such as an examination of the molecular basis for Drosophila (fruit-fly) eye color.  The unit ends with a holistic look at how DNA and proteins play a role in the genetic flow of information, known as the Central Dogma (DNA → RNA → Protein → Trait).  

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Synthesizing

DNA Analysis Using Restriction Enzymes

Unit 3

In this unit students will learn what restriction enzymes are, how they are used in nature, and how they can be exploited by the field of biotechnology for the purposes of DNA analysis and manipulation. Students will also be introduced to the common DNA analysis technique called gel electrophoresis. Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) and Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) will be covered from the perspective of their use in forensic science, genetic markers for genetic disorders, and paternity tests, for example. This unit is lab-based and students will need to apply their content understanding from prior units to the laboratory investigations they will perform throughout the unit.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing

DNA Analysis Using Gene Amplification

Unit 4

This unit will be taught primarily through an extensive, complex lab experience using the common industry technique called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).  Students will learn how to amplify, analyze, and manipulate DNA using PCR as they conduct a multi-day protocol.  Students will be looking for a particular piece of DNA that is present in the genes of many people. Students will have the opportunity to use their own DNA, from their cheek or hair follicle, during this procedure, to determine if they have the gene in question.  Students will also explore various applications of this technology in the field of biotechnology. 

21st Century Capacities: Synthesizing


Unit 5

The field of Bioinformatics is a multidisciplinary field that leverages computer science, math, and information processing and analysis to interpret biological data.  Students will explore the biological side of this field in their classroom as they utilize the laboratory procedures and techniques from prior units to extract DNA from fish purchased from various sources.   In doing so, students will begin the process of genetically determining if the species of fish that is advertised is authentic or fraudulent.  Students will then send out the extracted DNA for detailed genetic analysis and then analyze the results through an online bioinformatics tool (BLAST) to develop their conclusions.  The bioinformatics tools students will learn to use are those provided on the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website. 

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing

Recombinant DNA Technology, Transformation, and Genetic Engineering

Unit 6

This unit will provide clarity on the course phenomenon of the "Glowing Axolotl" as students manipulate the genes of bacteria to insert a "glow gene".  The unit will begin with an exploration of bacterial genetics including why bacteria are used extensively in biotechnology.  Exploration of the bacterial chromosome and plasmids, operon structure and function, bacterial growth conditions/types of growth, and the importance of aseptic technique when working with bacteria will be emphasized. Students will also investigate the steps involved in the production of recombinant DNA, bacterial transformation, and selection of transformants. CRISPR Cas9 technology may also be introduced as a cutting edge technology for the creation of recombinant DNA. Students will be introduced to applications of recombinant DNA technology in the form of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for the creation of therapeutic compounds and other products and gene therapy.

21st Century Capacities: Analyzing, Synthesizing


This Level 1 elective has a strong emphasis on molecular biology and laboratory techniques.  

Students will learn how to pour and load agarose gels in order to perform electrophoresis and DNA analysis.  The gel that you see in the pictures was used to analyze DNA from a student’s cheek cells after performing a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) experiment.  

During the Bioinformatics unit, students will test samples of various fish to determine if the fish being advertised is the same species as what is actually being sold.  Students will extract the DNA from the fish, send it away to be sequenced, and then compare the DNA sequences to those found in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database.

Students will also genetically engineering bacteria to make it glow, just like one of our axolotls pictured here!