What a difference it makes when our students become more confident working in our Cell & Tissue Culture lab! But none of this is possible without the work from every member of our team, including our peer mentor. From the faculty that developed (and teach) the biotechnology core courses, to our lab aide (also a graduate from our program), our program is small for now but keep graduating a steady number of Biotechnology Laboratory Technicians.
In the picture, some of our students in this year's graduating cohort, monitored by Amanda, their peer mentor, and in the center Prof. Beth Cliffel, one of the faculty that teaches the Introduction to Biotechnology and Good Laboratory Practices/Good Manufacturing Practices courses, part of the biotech core curriculum.
I was asked once how can we make a cell culture course work at a community college level, and what is it that our students learn in that course. While it is certainly a challenge to offer a course like cell culture in a traditional 2-day per week schedule, common to community colleges, it is possible if we work with a cell model that can be predictable, or at least as predictable as it can possibly be, and if the students have some flexibility and can come to the lab a third day in the week.
Our cell model is the 3T3-L1 cells (mouse fibroblasts). I chose it because those cells are relatively easy to work with in a 'predictable' way. As for what exactly our students learn, they learn how to thaw, grow, maintain, cryopreserve, differentiate, and prepare cells for other experiments (for example for electrophoretic separation - SDA PAGE).
The Cell & Tissue Culture course begins with an intensive theory module that lasts about 3 weeks, before students are ready to enter the lab to handle cells. Before they are given their first flask of cells to work with, they are given a demonstration of what is done in the lab, the use of the cell culture hoods, and they do a 'practice' run learning how to do aseptic transfers inside the hood. After that, they start in earnest; they're given one flask with cells and they will expand those cells, learning how to subculture and successfully complete at least 3 subculture cycles before they differentiate their cells. This semester, we are 2 weeks ahead of schedule, so before they go on their spring break, they have all had at least 4 subculture cycles, and will have learned how to cryopreserve their cells, as well as making 'cell preps' to use in electrophoresis later in the semester.
After they come back from spring break, they'll start from zero... each student will take one vial of their cryopreserved cells, and will start the culture process again, only this time, they'll differentiate them into adipocytes, at which time they will learn to detect the lipid droplets produced in their differentiated cells, using both traditional and fluorescent stains to introduce them to the use of fluorescence microscopy. They will do much more but this sums it up.