PROJECTS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF BIOTECHNOLOGICAL PRODUCTS. HOW TO ADAPT THEM FOR LABORATORY PRACTICES USING THE PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING METHODOLOGY
Transversal competencies related to research skills are very important in a Biotechnology degree. Students graduates should be able to apply the theoretical knowledge acquired in practice, generating new ideas (creativity). They must know how to operate in a laboratory, using the appropriate material and instruments. They must know describing and measureing relevant variables of processes or experiments, analysing and interpreting the scientific data generated. All these competencies, necessary for good professional performance, are however difficult to acquire by the student and difficult to teach for the teacher.
We believe that the teaching methodology PBL (Problem-based learning) associated to projects that propose in their context the development of a biotechnological product, is the most effective way to achieve the simultaneous development of these difficult competencies. However, if activities based on "professional projects” are chosen, the design of PBL activities is not easy, and involves two fundamental problems: the limited time available for project development and the high price of the required materials. However, it is possible to made real biotechnology projects of a "professional" level by solving time and material cost constraints. For achiveve this, we propose to perform related previous classroom activities dealing with experimental design and project planning; and a convenient adaptation of the experimental protocols to overcome the economic and time constraints available.
In the present work, we describe two paradigmatic examples of PBL activities carried out in our university in detail, showing how to implement them with an acceptable cost of time and materials, even for large groups of students.
In the project "Encapsulation of the cell transcription-translation machinery in vesicles for the construction of artificial cells for in vitro synthesis of proteins" students are placed in the context of an R&D team of biotechnologists who objetive is to design an educational kit of laboratory practices for institutes or universities, as economical as possible, based on a professional biotech protocol for in vitro transcription-translation of proteins.
In the project "Development of a bacteriophage-based meat disinfectant" the students are placed in the context of an R & D biotech team that isolates and assays strains of phage viruses obtained from samples collected in the possible sources of contamination by enterotoxigenic bacteria; to develop an effective product for the food industry in order to eliminate bacteria without producing organoleptic alterations.