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Biotech-in-a-Box Equipment Loan Program

For fifteen years, the Fralin Life Science Institute has made available complete kits for bringing biotechnology to Virginia high school and community college classrooms. These kits contain all the equipment needed for the experiments, and the Institute pays round-trip shipping between Virginia Tech and your school. Extensive manuals that include scientific and pedagogical information are sent to borrowers before they receive the kits. Descriptions of the kits are given below. With the exception of the Introduction to Immunology Kit, the kits are shipped from Virginia Tech on Thursday to arrive at the school on the first Monday of the loan period.

The program has recently received a grant from the Virginia Council on Advanced Technology Skills (VCATS), in partnership with the Virginia Biotechnology Association (VaBIO) and the Virginia Manufacturers Association (VMA). We are very grateful for their support, which has enabled the purchase of new equipment and expansion of the program. Invitrogen has graciously donated the 1 kb Plus DNA Ladder that is included in the DNA Biotechnology Kit. We appreciate their support!


DNA Biotechnology Kit

The DNA Biotechnology Kit contains the equipment and materials for students to pour agarose gels and use them to analyze DNA. Several scenarios for the experiment are provided in the manual, including a crime scene scenario (think CSI!) and an ethics scenario.

Included in the kit are an instructional DVD and books, horizontal electrophoresis chambers, power supplies, a microcentrifuge, light boxes for viewing stained gels, and micropipettors, as well as all the expendables needed to run the experiment. This kit is available for a 2-week loan period, and multiple borrowers from the same school are asked to coordinate their loan requests.


Immunology Kit

The Introduction to Immunology Kit contains background materials on basic immunology, with emphasis on using antibodies as tools in research and in diagnostic tests. The kit features a technique widely used in medicine, drug testing, and forensics: the ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbant Assay). In this experiment, students share "bodily fluids" to simulate the spread of disease and then test their samples using an ELISA to see if they have been infected. NOTE: No bodily fluids or infectious agents are used in this experiment!)

The kit contains all of the materials needed for the experiment except for hydrogen peroxide (which can be purchased at any drug store) and distilled water. This Introduction to Immunology Kit is available for a 3-week loan period. Note: this kit is shipped on Monday for delivery on the first Tuesday of the loan period; the kit contains materials that must be placed in the refrigerator and freezer as soon as possible.


Column Chromatography Kit

Column chromatography is a technique commonly used to purify proteins, both in research labs and in the biotechnology industry. The Column Chromatography Kit contains materials for running three types of chromatographic columns: gel filtration, which separates molecules by size; ion exchange, which separates based on charge; and reverse phase, which separates molecules based on polarity. A scenario in which the students determine whether groundwater runoff is contaminated is provided in the manual.

The kit contains all of the materials needed for running the columns, except for rubbing alcohol and grape soda. Visual aids on chromatography accompany the kit, and the manual contains student worksheets for the three experiments. This kit is available for a 2-week loan period.


Protein Electrophoresis Kit

The Protein Electrophoresis Kit contains all of the material needed to perform polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) of proteins. Students can design several types of experiments. For example, students can address evolutionary questions in which the proteins from closely-related and distantly-related fish are compared, or forensic questions, in which students determine the identity of a seafood sample by comparing the proteins in the unknown sample to those of known species. In addition, the experiment can be used to demonstrate differences in protein expression in mammalian organs; for example, beef liver and beef muscle contain the same DNA, yet, the proteins expressed in the two tissues are quite different because of their unique functions.

Included in the kit are vertical electrophoresis chambers, a power supply, and other equipment and materials needed to prepare samples for electrophoresis. Instructions in the kit explain how to prepare protein samples from seafood or meat samples (not included). The Institute will provide five gels with the kit. More may be obtained from Bio-Rad directly, if the borrower wishes to run additional gels. This kit is available for a 2-week loan period, and multiple borrowers from the same school are asked to coordinate their loan requests.


Thermal Cycler

Two thermal cyclers are available for loan for a 2-week period. Unlike the other equipment loans, this is not a complete kit; it includes only the thermal cycler and directions for its use. This loaner equipment is intended for those teachers who are able to supply their own materials for polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based experiments. A number of companies, including Bio-Rad, Carolina Biological Supply Company, Edvotek, and Modern Biology, Inc., have PCR kits available.


To Schedule An Equipment Loan

The kit manuals are available in pdf format on the Fralin website. Included in the manuals are lists of all kit contents and descriptions of the preparation that must be done prior to the experiment.

The loan forms for the following academic year are available on this website in mid-May. Scheduling of equipment requests for the school year is completed by mid-August. Please return your request forms no later than August 1st to be included in this first round of scheduling (i.e., to schedule your loan for the most desired loan periods). Requests received after that time will be filled on a space-available basis.

If you have any questions about the Biotech-in-a-Box program or about your equipment loans, please contact:

Dr. Kristi DeCourcy
Virginia Tech
Fralin Life Science Institute
West Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061
(540) 231-7959 FAX (540) 231-7126
email: decourcy@vt.edu

Please note that equipment loans are available only to Virginia educators.