A Nickel’s Worth of Free Advice: Biotech and the Law

This year’s participants in Emerging Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering, a two-credit graduate course offered in partnership with the Department of Oncology, UW-Madison, held July 17-21, 2017.

Today’s author extends thanks to Heather Gerard, Intellectual Property Manager, Promega Corporation for contributing her expertise to this post.

Students most often come to the BTC Institute with the primary goal of learning about molecular biology technologies. Our mission is to help them update their experimental tool-box, facilitating more capable studies of DNA, RNA and proteins back in their home laboratories.

But what else do we do? Well, we’re glad you asked. Continue reading

Next-Generation Genomics Education: Educating and Preparing the Next Generation

Students pursuing their interests wit h hands-on activities at BTC Institute.

Students pursuing their interests wit h hands-on activities at BTC Institute.

The BTC Institute has many partners in creating educational opportunities in the molecular biosciences. In recent years, we have worked with the Dane County School to Work Consortium (DCSWC) to create a unique, one-semester class aimed at giving high school Juniors and Seniors interested in scientific research and health careers a chance to explore how concepts they have been learning about in their biology and biotechnology classrooms are used in the laboratory.

To take it one step further, these laboratory experiences are tied to the Gates Foundation Grand Challenges in Global Health. The Challenges provide a framework to help students understand worldwide concerns, including ways in which biotechnology can be applied to generate solutions to these problems. Students are encouraged to place scientific challenges within social and socioeconomic contexts which, in turn, make some solutions more appealing than others. This holistic approach provides the “real world” milieu that is so sought after in academic endeavors. Continue reading

Pack a Little Science into Your Summer with Advanced Courses from BTCI

This new cGMP facility was built to have the least effect on the natural environment as possible--surrounded by rain gardens and native plantings, using grey water for flushing toilets--sustainable growth was the goal.

Summer on the Prairie at Promega–Study science surrounded by birds, bees, flowers and amazing prairie.

Summer, a much-looked forward to season. We typically pack in the activities and make the most of the daylight. We work hard and we play hard.  This summer will be no exception, and at the BTC Institute, we are already getting set to host as many students as we can. We will see middle and high schoolers, K-12 teachers, college students, graduate students, college and university faculty and staff, and professionals in the biotech community under our roof at some point. You may want to join us too!

Our programs for advanced learners, geared toward the graduate student or biotech professional, offer much more than just a rigorous immersion in molecular biology theory and practice. Held at the BTC Institute at Promega Headquarters, they are taught by highly knowledgeable scientists, coming from both industry and academia. These instructors offer a wealth of information and share their expertise as well as life experiences with students. Informal discussions about career trajectories and access to industry are important added benefits to attending these off-campus workshops. Continue reading

Quizzing Technology in the Classroom

BTCI summer studentsThe most downloaded paper EVER in the history of the Association for Psychological Science journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest was published in 2013. Titled “Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology, ” it’s a free download and worth the read.

The authors, researchers in the field of psychology, review ten “top learning techniques” for better success in the classroom and the integration of new knowledge into working memory. They evaluated the effectiveness of a wide range of learning techniques that students typically use in the pursuit of better academic performance: Continue reading

What Will You Do on Your Summer Vacation? Try a BTC Institute Summer Intensive Course

Students and community members enjoy a warm spring day at the Memorial Union Terrace at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 8, 2009. ©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067 Photo by: Bryce Richter Date:  05/09    File#:  NIKON D3 digital frame

Students and community members enjoy a warm spring day at the Memorial Union Terrace at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 8, 2009.
©UW-Madison University Communications 608/262-0067
Photo by: Bryce Richter
Date: 05/09 File#: NIKON D3 digital frame

Summer, the sweetest season…here in Wisconsin we look forward to warm evenings on the Memorial Union Terrace at UW-Madison, grilling brats and veggie burgers, fresh harvests from the farmer’s market and of course, the BTC Institute’s intensive summer courses.

Here is a brief list of what we are offering this summer –

Neuroscience 675 : Molecular Approaches to Neuroscience (June 15-19; 9am–5:30pm): An introduction to basic molecular biology techniques including cloning, nucleic acid isolation, amplification and analysis; cell-based assays for studying cell death mechanisms and microscopy techniques are presented as well as approaches to studying kinase activity for drug discovery. Guest lectures augment the laboratory-focused, techniques-based curriculum.

Oncology 675 – 001: Core Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering (July 13-17;  9am-6pm): An advanced primer on molecular biology techniques; nucleic acid isolation, cloning tools and techniques, PCR technologies (PCR, RT-PCR, qPCR and qRT-PCR), plasmid purification, protein purification techniques, and Western blot form the backbone of this course. Additional topics are included as lectures to provide examples of applications.

 Oncology 675 – 002: Emerging Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering (July 20-24; 9am-6pm): Focusing on transcription, translation and especially epigenetics, this course allows students to explore cutting edge techniques used to study molecular biology. Laboratory exercises testing HDAC inhibitor potencies and analyzing cellular consequences of HDAC inhibition, cell health assessment and kinase inhibitor assays for drug profiling, studying protein-protein interactions in live cells, and investigating biologics in live cells. Lectures will tentatively include discussion of deep sequencing and next-gen sequencing, pharmaceutical development, mass spectrometry for discovery, systems biology approaches to experimental design and others.

Enjoy the prairie at the BTC Institute campus and learn something too!

Enjoy the prairie at the BTC Institute campus and learn something too!

Please direct inquiries about the courses to Dr. Amy Prevost (amy.prevost@btci.org) – we hope to see some of you this summer!

Also, visit our web site to see what else we’re doing at the BTC Institute- we have some great summer programs for upper elementary and middle school students, camp biotech for 9th and 10th graders, and  teacher training courses– more information on all of our course offerings at www.btci.org .

Biotechnology Ice Breakers: A Few Conversation Starters

quiz pictureThe biotechnology industry is one of the most dynamic out there – in fact, it never stands still! For non-scientists this can be intimidating. For scientists, it can be challenging to explain what we do in ways that non-scientists can understand and appreciate.

Scientists have made great strides in improving our ability to use molecular processes to our advantage, from discovering the basics of how to isolate and manipulate DNA to gaining an understanding of how genes direct the creation of proteins in cells.  It’s clear that there is a lot we can contribute to the scientific literacy of the general public.

In this spirit, we’ve designed a short quiz for both non-scientists (you may learn something new) and scientists (you may find it useful for engaging in conversations with your non-scientist friends and family members).  Spoiler alert: answers are provided. Continue reading

Opportunities for High School Students to Learn at the BTC Institute

Paul Simon famously sang about what it was like to engage as a learner in a high school environment—though his lack of education certainly hasn’t hurt him any, I do wonder about reading the “writing on the wall”. Frequently, in Education, we talk about the challenges of preparing students for careers that have yet to be invented. What to do?

One major initiative within K-16 education can broadly be referred to as “21st Century Skills”—those that are needed for individuals to be successful contributors in a society where concrete goals are moving targets. Though we don’t know the exact details, we’re pretty sure that there are some basic elements that all people will need to be successful contributors to society.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills has built a framework for understanding and aligning our education system toward these skills:

Photocredit: Partnership for 21st Century Skills http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework

Photocredit: Partnership for 21st Century Skills http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework

Applying this model to educational programming takes a lot of innovation and hard work on the part of instructors as well as students. However, students who have the opportunity to engage with a teaching and learning system that makes use of these concepts can reap big rewards when it comes to being able to understand how their learning can be applied to solving problems. Here at the BTC Institute, we have been fortunate to work with the Dane County (Wisconsin) School Consortium to develop two offerings for high school students in the area of biotechnology that really work within this model and give students the contextualization they need to develop academic and career skills. Continue reading

Reflections on Summer 2014 Courses

Group Photo from the 2014 Core Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering Course Held at the BTC Institute July 14-18. Photo credit: BTCI

Group Photo from the 2014 Core Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering Course Held at the BTC Institute July 14-18. Photo credit: BTCI

One of the things that I encourage all of the students I interact with in BTC Institute courses to do in order to boost retention and make meaning out of the activities that we do in class is to reflect on their experiences. Reflection is one way to connect new knowledge to past experience and get it to really stick in the brain, among other things.

Taking my own advice to heart, I use this space to ponder some interesting aspects of these experiences from my own perspective. This summer, I worked with 65 students and over 25 instructors to deliver four weeks of intensive instruction in molecular biology applied to a wide range of research areas. Continue reading

Broaden Your Horizons While Pursuing Your Doctorate—You Will Be Glad You Did

For this posting, I had promised to include some commentary on ACTION.

image credit: ComiCONNMitch via Wikimedia Commons

image credit: ComiCONNMitch via Wikimedia Commons

What can someone pursuing a doctorate in the biosciences DO during that time to widen the possibilities of employment in the future? In general, the process of obtaining the doctorate has been criticized for taking too long and not doing enough to prepare students for what they will do when they graduate. Considering these criticisms, it seems wrong to create additional check-boxes on the student to-do list leading up to graduation. Therefore, these things are not in addition to what is already expected, but are instead the same things that are already happening re-focused. Continue reading

Influential Factors and Recommendations: Modeling the Development of Knowledge Transfer Skills

I am hoping that this posting generates some conversation – what factors influence the development of knowledge transfer skills for doctoral students? Below is one model that maps many of the influences that a doctoral student in the biosciences may have on their development of expertise, including their ability to transfer knowledge. This model is supported by many studies of doctoral education, including The Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, Center for Research and Innovation in Graduate Education (CIRGE), Council of Graduate Schools Re-Envisioning the PhD, reports by the National Academy of Science (e.g., 1995 COSEPUP report) and other publicly and privately funded initiatives.

Picture1_webExamination of program elements can help to shape students’ specific interactions and determine what experiences foster the development of knowledge transfer skills. Toward this end, I am expanding some particularly relevant aspects of development that students should develop in order to aid in the acquisition of transfer skills. These categories were developed based on extensive interviews with doctoral students, recent graduates and faculty in numerous programs nationwide.

In order to enhance their ability to transfer knowledge, students should be able to: Continue reading