Biotechnology Mini-Unit: PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, and Restriction Enzymes

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This high school biology mini-unit is designed to be a basic introduction to three essential biotechnology tools: PCR, Restriction Enzymes, and gel electrophoresis. Great for teachers with no access to do biotech activities or labs in class!

These three tools are so important in the biotech industry and they often come up in science news. I want my students to better understand what they are and the basics of how they work.

Biotech equipment is expensive. Many schools, including ones I have worked in, had no resources to actually do the lab component for a biotech unit. Ideally, I would have loved for my students to be able to perform a lab procedure using each of these three tools, but it isn’t always possible. This mini-unit can be used as a substitute for performing these three lab techniques in a school with no resources or as a great classroom supplement (even pre-lab assignments) to help teachers explain the techniques before the students complete them in a school with biotech equipment.

This mini-unit contains:
1. Gel Electrophoresis Tutorial and Questions:
Gel electrophoresis is the first essential tool of the biotech industry. It is the way that scientists can “see” the DNA from their reaction tubes and start to analyze it! I include a two page tutorial with diagrams that describes the basics of how it works. Students then can answer two pages of questions that go with the tutorial. These questions include a gel that students “read” band size for all the bands and another gel where they draw bands according to the directions.

2. PCR Tutorial and Questions:
My PCR tutorial is one page and describes the very basics without getting into too many details, just enough for students to understand the purpose of doing PCR. I include a one page question sheet that checks for understanding of the PCR process.

3. Restriction Enzyme Analysis Tutorial and Questions: My Restriction Enzyme Tutorial keeps it simple and helps students to understand the basic purpose of using Restriction Enzymes. The tutorial is one page long and the question sheet is one page long.

4. Applications: The Cicada Conundrum (2 pages), The Mysterious Death of Mr. Bawdee (1 page), and Who’s The Daddy: Elephant Edition (1 page).

The Cicada Conundrum describes a simple experiment using PCR and gel electrophoresis and asks students to analyze data and the experiment’s value. The Mysterious Death describes a crime scene and has students analyze data that was generated using restriction enzyme analysis and gel electrophoresis to discover the murder weapon and the murderer. Who’s the Daddy asks students to resolve an elephant paternity case using restriction enzyme analysis and gel electrophoresis. Some of the questions are left purposely open-ended and I encourage students to work together in groups to brainstorm the answers.

These pages are set up so you as a teacher can pick and choose how much to do in a class period. This mini-unit takes about 3-4 class periods to complete. A full answer key is included!

If you have any questions, suggestions, or corrections, please leave a question on the question and answer section of my store and I will get back to you quickly!

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Total Pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
3 hours

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Biotechnology Mini-Unit: PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, and Res
Biotechnology Mini-Unit: PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, and Res
Biotechnology Mini-Unit: PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, and Res
Biotechnology Mini-Unit: PCR, Gel Electrophoresis, and Res
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