New Biotechnology Areas: Medical Biotechnology and Biotechnology Techniques
At Science Buddies, we find the diversity of science and engineering a constant source of excitement and inspiration. With over 30 areas of science represented in our library of Project Ideas, we encourage students (like you!) to explore areas of science that range from traditional subjects like chemistry and physics to newer areas like environmental engineering and biotechnology.
Newton's Laws and Einstein's Theories are still around, but every day, new discoveries are made, new questions are asked, innovative approaches are put to the test, and data is analyzed. It can seem hard to keep up! But the fact that things change every day in science means science is always fresh and full of potential for you to get involved, to tackle a hands-on project, and to investigate the nitty-gritty about emerging areas of science and engineering.
Science Buddies' scientist-authored Project Ideas help you get started exploring the same kinds of hot and important questions that researchers are investigating today—and there is plenty of opportunity for you to make your own discoveries and to design innovative investigations!
One really exciting area of science that students today have the opportunity to explore is biotechnology.
To support the overwhelming growth of biotechnology, we are separating the "Biotechnology" area of our Project Ideas library into two areas: Medical Biotechnology and Biotechnology Techniques. Both areas share biotechnology as a foundation, but the "goals" of the projects in each area differ. Students interested in focused research projects with a medical or pharmaceutical slant will find guidance in Medical Biotechnology projects. Students interested in learning the nuts and bolts of biotechnology research, procedures, and practices that can then be applied to other questions and projects, can explore biotechnology fundamentals in Biotechnology Techniques projects.
Learning the "Techniques"
Projects in the Biotechnology Techniques area are specifically designed to help students gain an understanding of techniques and procedures used in biotechnology projects and research. These projects focus on equipment, devices, or procedures common to biotechnology research and exploration. In other words, in this area, you'll learn more about equipment and materials that are part of a biotechnologist's "toolkit." In some cases, you can even make your own cutting-edge biotech equipment—which you can then put to use in other science experiments! The following Project Ideas are examples of the kinds of Project Ideas students can explore in the new Biotechnology Techniques area:
- Forensic Science: Building Your Own Tool for Identifying DNA: Gel electrophoresis is the process of separating macromolecules by loading the molecules in a gel and then applying an electric current. This is a common technique in biotechnology, and understanding how gel electrophoresis works can open up many areas of study—including forensics! But a gel electrophoresis chamber is a specialized piece of equipment. In this project, we show you how to build your own gel electrophoresis chamber and then put it to use by testing the composition of food coloring. (Pssst: Our 2011 Summer Science Fellows made a video demonstrating this project.)
- Who Done It? DNA Fingerprinting and Forensics: Students can learn more about the application of biotechnology (and the use of gel electrophoresis) in this forensics project when they use restriction enzymes to help match up DNA samples to a fictitious crime scene.
Science projects in the new Biotechnology Techniques area might also explore topics like using genetic engineering techniques to isolate or manipulate DNA or to make bacteria glow.
Biotechnology and Medicine
Projects in the Medical Biotechnology area let students get involved in testing and exploring the kinds of medical questions that the pharmaceutical industry is investigating. Projects in this area let students explore the ways in which medicines are researched, tested, and evolved. Students can also experiment with questions related to using medicines to treat genetic diseases, targeting specific organ systems with specific medications, personal genomics, and more. For example, the following Project Idea is part of the Medical Biotechnology area:
- I Love Ice Cream, But It Doesn't Love Me: Can't eat ice cream? Can't drink milk? Did you realize that your body stops making the enzyme you need to process dairy products around the age of two? In this science project, students can investigate what it really means, on a biological level, when you say someone is "lactose intolerant." By learning more about lactase (an important enzyme) and glucose (a reaction product), students can simulate lactose intolerance, letting them better understand what happens inside the body of someone who is lactose intolerant.
Thanks to Our Sponsors
Biotechnology projects and resources on the Science Buddies website have been developed for many years thanks to support from Bio-Rad and its Biotechnology Explorer program. As we continue to develop materials for the biotechnology areas of Science Buddies, Bio-Rad will continue to support development of Biotechnology Techniques resources and Project Ideas. Support from the Amgen Foundation will help further develop and expand the new Medical Biotechnology interest area.