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Dec 01, 2021 2021-12-01

Digital Learning • Learning Support

Virtual Biotechnology Activities Incorporating Computational Analysis

Researchers in the BIO5 Institute at The University of Arizona worked with teachers to develop activities that allow high school students to learn about the use of computational analysis for biological questions. The activities are intended to help teachers adapt the teaching of science without having access to a classroom or lab. The work came out of the BIOTECH Project, which has produced materials, equipment, and training to conduct molecular genetics experiments with high school students.

The BIOTECH Project’s website presents resources about Corona Virus, RT PCR Testing, Immunological Testing, Vaccines, and Clinical Trials. One resource is a lesson that keys in on a question especially relevant for these times: Would SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—the one behind COVID-19—be a good choice as a target for vaccine development?

In the lesson, students learn how different vaccines work and conduct a comparison of protein sequences. By looking at the uniqueness of spike proteins, students are able to see the “evolutionary relatedness” of the seven coronaviruses from their computer. By the end of the lesson, students have compared spike protein sequences of different versions of SARS-CoV-2 to each other and seen that the sequence similarity within the spike proteins make them good vaccine candidates.

The lesson was developed prior to the pandemic. The researchers then added an addendum to the lesson to help teachers and students examine emerging variants using the activity.

Computational Thinking Science STEM • STEAM • STREAM Educational Technology

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