DEVELOPMENT OF AN INTEGRATING RESEARCH-BASED LEARNING PROJECT IN THE DEGREE IN BIOTECHNOLOGY AT UNIVERSIDAD EUROPEA DE MADRID

A pilot experience has been carried out to implement a guided Research-Based Learning project that intends to help our students integrating the contents of different subjects of the Degree in Biotechnology by putting them into practice. This experience aims to set third-year undergraduates in the real context of a biotechnological development designed by the Applied Biotechnology Research Group in our University. In this project, supervised by teachers with different specialties, the students face real problems performing experimental tasks and simulations to apply the knowledge they have acquired in each discipline. This way, the students assimilate in an integral way the existing interrelation between these subjects and the real practice of their professional activity.

The scope of this integrating project focuses on the production and characterization of an enzyme with potential industrial interest. The ultimate goal of the biotechnological process is to study the viability of this protein to use it as a biocatalyst of an industrial reaction. Students perform different tasks including the in silico analysis of gene and protein sequences, the characterization of the three-dimensional structure of the functional enzyme through multiple specialized computer tools and the protein expression using genetic engineering tools as a previous step to perform its characterization and purification. With this purpose, we have coordinated activities in five subjects during the year (Molecular Genetic Engineering, Bioinformatics, Functional and Proteomic Genomics, Protein Chemistry and Engineering and Advanced Instrumental Techniques). This approach aims to improve our students' understanding of a biotechnological development from an overall perspective, increasing their ability to integrate theoretical concepts. Moreover, it will help them acquire the professional skills they must achieve during their undergraduate studies through a series of interconnected active methodologies. This type of activity that allows students to work on a real project can improve their understanding of their future professional work, making them more competitive in their careers.

The limited number of students enrolled in the third course of Biotechnology at the time of launching this pilot experience has allowed us to work as a team, with a continuous and close follow-up, as well as to obtain a direct feedback. This has been an advantage to implement this project as a curricular activity for the larger groups that we are having in the following years. It should also be noted that the students' satisfaction levels with the project have been quite positive so, in addition to improving those aspects that require it, our next objective is to incorporate more subjects in this project in order to include all the stages of the biotechnological process.