BCMB 515

Experimental Techniques I

Fall, 2001


Course grades are based on a total of 1000 points comprised of the following:


Lab Reports 150
Experimental Design 200
Lab Notebook (two grading units) 200
Oral Presentation 100
Biotechnology Project 100
Final Exam Question 50
Final Exam 200

The grading scale (on a percentage basis) is:


90-100 A
85-89 B+
80-84 B
75-79 C+
70-74 C


Lab Reports: Lab reports present results and address specific questions in a format that is described in detail for each exercise. Students will be given clear expectations of the type of information and presentation style that should be used for each report. These reports are required for the first part of the course that covers basic skills. One is required after each of the laboratories on agarose electrophoresis, PAGE, spectroscopy & protein assays, chromatography, and enzymology. These reports are 15 pts. Each. The other lab report that is required is for the computer analysis of DNA sequence data. It is worth 75 pts.

Experimental Design: During the second and third sections of the course, the Molecular Biology Unit and the Protein Biochemistry Unit, students are expected to develop their own experimental protocols. Students should work with their lab group on the methods and experimental design; the group will meet with the instructor to discuss their plan and defend the choices that have been made in the experimental scheme. Approval of the plan must be granted before any hands-on laboratory time is spent on the experiments described. The grade for these two experimental design sections will be based on the validity of the approach and the knowledge the group demonstrates about the details of the plan and other options in design.

Lab Notebook: See guidelines in the textbook about good record keeping--and adhere to these guidelines. It is essential for someone who picks up your notebook to be able to tell exactly what you did in your experiment, what results were obtained, and your interpretation of these results. Some laboratory exercises have questions at the end that should be answered in your notebook. All data should be analyzed and questions should be answered prior to the next lab session. Lab notebooks will be taken up twice for grading.

Oral Presentation: Two laboratory sessions have been set aside for oral presentations by students. Each lab group shall choose a topic of general interest to the group that falls outside of the subject material covered in the course. (Topics that have been chosen in past years include generation of dDNA libraries, FACS analysis, pulsed-field electrophoresis, nanotechnology, yeast as a model oranism, and others…) The topic should be presented to the class in lecture format, with appropriate visual aids, handouts, demonstrations, literature citations, lists of helpful resources, etc. Presentations should involve all members of the lab group and they should be planned to last approximately 30 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for questions. Grading will be by peer evaluation.

Biotechnology Project

Final Exam Question: Each student will be required to prepare a question that would be appropriate for the final exam in this course. (Note that some of them could actually appear on the final!) These questions should be experimental in focus—that is, they should propose an experimental problem that could be answered using the approaches we have covered in class. Both experimental design and theory are appropriate for testing. Current literature is often a good source for developing good questions. A written question and answer will be submitted for grading.

Final Exam: A written final will be part of the grade for the course. Test questions generally deal with experimental approaches and their application for current questions in the field of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. Students will be evaluated on their understanding of techniques and their ability to apply them appropriately to a given experimental problem.

Late Work: If a good reason exists, late work will be accepted without penalty only if prior arrangements have been made with the instructor. In the absence of prior arrangements, work can be turned in up to one week late; however, the grade will be reduced by one full letter grade (on a percentage basis). Work will not be accepted if more than one week late without prior arrangement, and the grade will be 0.