FAQ: Classroom Equipment

Q: What equipment do I need?

A: Consider the following questions.

  • What do you want your students to do?
    Although an obvious question, this is where it all begins. A simple transformation lab, for example, requires very little specialized equipment and is a great way to get started. If you plan on fulfilling requirements for AP Biology, you will need materials not only for transformation, but also for gel electrophoresis. If you are planning a semester long course, you will undoubtedly be involved in more sophisticated techniques like DNA amplification and hybridization experiments.
  • How long do they have to do it?
    Do your laboratory class periods last 50 minutes or 3 hours? Does the class meet every day or every other day? Answering these questions will help you make specific equipment decisions. For example, if your class periods are only 50 minutes long, you probably want a power supply with a low (10V) setting to allow your students to run gels overnight.
  • How many students at one time?
    What is the largest class size you will need to accommodate, and how many students will you group into one lab team? Answering these questions will help you make important decisions regarding quantity. Also, if you have several classes that meet sequentially, you might need to consider staggering the laboratory exercises from class to class to maximize the use of your equipment.
  • Can your budget afford it?
    Now it’s time to be practical. You might need to refine some of your earlier decisions to fit the constraints of your budget. For example, to get started you might increase the number of students per team, and gradually add materials for additional teams as the budget permits.

Once you’ve thought about these questions, contact us and we can help!

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Q: Should I get an Ultraviolet or White Light Transilluminator?

A: This question can only be answered after you decide which type of stain you will use to visualize your students’ DNA.

FOTO/Vision DNA stain is a non-mutagenic, fast, senstive stain that is perfect for the educational laboratory.  FOTO/Vision is mixed with the DNA sample before loading on the gel.  After the gel is complete, simply place it on a UV transilluminator and view.  There is no extra staining or destaining time.  The DNA fragments will appear as blue-green bands on a black background.  Since FOTO/Vision is non-toxic, it does not require special handling or disposal.  Many research laboratories use ethidium bromide to visualize DNA on a UV transilluminator.  Ethidium bromide is considered a mutagen and does require special handling and disposal.

Methylene blue stain is popular in the educational laboratory because it can be used with less expensive white light transilluminators.  Methylene blue is less sensitive than FOTO/Vision and does require more DNA for detection.  Long (20-30 minutes) staining and destaining times are needed to view the DNA in the gel.  A white light transilluminator allows the dark blue bands to appear more visible against a light blue background.  Methylene blue is considered non-toxic and does not require special disposal.

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