Linking Biotechnology to Physical Science and Engineering Standards

For those of you who have not read our overview of the Next Generation Science Standards, please read it here.

In brief, the Next Generation Science Standards are a set of guidelines that focus on preparing students for careers in STEM fields including biotechnology, engineering and technology. These new set of standards were set in place to help teachers explore the fundamental concepts important to STEM fields – Life Science, Physical Science, and Engineering and Design.

We discusses the Life Science core ideas in a previous post (click here to read).  The focus of our discussion today is on Physical Science and Engineering & Design Core Ideas. Although Biotechnology is not traditionally a part of these science disciplines, they are mutually supportive. In fact, some understanding of physical science serves as a foundational knowledge for Life Sciences and other science disciplines. Below we discuss some biotechnology experiments that address the Physical Science and Engineering & Design Core Ideas.

PS1 –Matter and Its Interactions

Students will develop an understanding of structure and interactions as well as the physical and chemical properties of matter.

Before we can learn more about biotechnology, we must understand their physical properties at the molecular level, and this means exploring the properties of matter. All things are made of matter, which is commonly defined as anything that has both mass and volume. Matter is made by combining different elements to form specific chemical structures. These resulting molecules have diverse sizes, shapes and charges.

A basic biotechnology technique called gel electrophoresis allows us to separate different molecules by size or charge by applying a uniform electric field. For this procedure, an electrophoresis apparatus is used which contains wired electrodes (cathode & anode) at each end of the apparatus. The samples to be separated are loaded onto an agarose gel through which the molecules migrate when electrical current is applied. Negatively charged molecules migrate toward the cathode and positively charged molecules migrate toward the anode.

Dye Electrophoresis is a great experiment to teach electrophoresis and the interaction of differently charged molecules to your students! One of our newest additions, Candy Electrophoresis (S-47), investigates the different food dye mixtures used to color-coat candies. Your students will use color-coated candies like M&M’s and Skittles to extract the dye and run the samples on an agarose gel. Depending on the overall charge of the dyes, some of them will migrate toward the cathode while some will migrate toward the anode. 

PS2 –Motion and Stability: Forces and Interaction

Students will develop an understanding of forces and types of interactions within systems of objects.

NGSS Standard PS-2 allows students to explore the ways that objects can interact with one another. Some forces responsible for these interactions between objects are gravity, electromagnetism, and friction. Just like an electric field is used in electrophoresis to separate molecules by size and charge, physical interactions in a technique known as chromatography are used to separate molecules by size, charge, or binding affinity.

There are several different kinds of chromatography procedures used in a lab setting. One of them is Gel Filtration Chromatography in which a gel matrix is used to separate mixtures of molecules based on their size and shape. For example, Kit 204 (Separation of RNA & DNA by Gel Filtration Chromatography) separates RNA and DNA using gel filtration chromatography. Before performing the experiment, students will prepare the column by loading the pre-hydrated resin into a column. The chromatography matrix comprises very tiny beads with small pores and internal channels. The samples are then

Separation of RNA and DNA by Gel Filtration Chromatography
Separation of RNA and DNA by Gel Filtration Chromatography © Edvotek 2014

loaded onto the column, and a neutral buffer is flowed through the column. As the sample passes through the resin, small molecules get stuck within the channels, whereas large molecules flow around the bead matrix. This means that larger nucleic acids are eluted from the column before smaller ones. The collected fractions (RNA, DNA or both) are then analyzed using electrophoresis.

PS3 –Energy

Students will develop an understanding of how energy is transferred and conserved in systems.

 The last of the three Physical Science sub-ideas explores energy. The focus here is on the transfer and conservation of energy between objects and within systems. Energy manifests itself in different forms such as light, motion, thermal energy, electric & magnetic fields. It is

Plant Pigment Chromatography and Photosynthesis ©Edvotek 2014
Plant Pigment Chromatography and Photosynthesis ©Edvotek 2014

conserved within a system and is not produced or destroyed; energy is only transformed. Living systems transform conserved energy into chemical energy to live, grow, and reproduce.

A good example of the transformation of energy within biological sciences is cellular respiration. This process converts biochemical energy from sugars into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), also known as “molecular unit of currency”. Another example of this concept is the process of photosynthesis, where light energy is converted to chemical energy and sugars are produced utilizing carbon dioxide and water. One of our kits to consider under this category is Plant Pigment Chromatography & Photosynthesis (Kit 284). In this experiment, students will learn about the light dependent reactions of photosynthesis and also use thin layer chromatography to separate plant pigments.

ETS1 –Engineering Design

Students will develop an understanding of how problems are identified in science and solutions are developed using scientific methods.

In order to help our students become outstanding future scientists, they must possess good problem solving skills. The purpose of Engineering Design is to help your students with problem identification, investigation, analysis & interpretation of data collected, and the application of critical thinking to find solutions. Developing good problem solving skills

How Clean is the Water we Drink and the Air we Breathe?  ©Edvotek 2014
How Clean is the Water we Drink and the Air we Breathe? ©Edvotek 2014

will help your students to not only impact science but also the natural world around them.

EDVOTEK offers many experiments that are related to the impact science has the natural world. A great experiment to introduce this concept to your students is “How Clean is the Water We Drink and the Air We Breathe?” (Kit S-30). This hands-on activity encourages students to discover microorganisms in their environment, including local bodies of water. After performing the activity, discuss the importance of safe drinking water, and have your students design strategies to reduce the number of harmful microorganisms in the water supply.  More advanced students can test water samples using the Polymerase

Multiplex PCR-based Testing of Water Contaminants
Multiplex PCR-based Testing of Water Contaminants

Chain Reaction (PCR). This experiment, Multiplex PCR Testing of Water Contaminants (Kit 953), will allow you to discuss Nobel Prize-winning PCR technology and engineering challenges in developing the thermal cycler in addition to safe water and sanitation strategies.

We hope this breakdown has enhanced your understanding of Next Generation Science Standards Core Ideas. Please check out our NGSS selection guide on our website to help with the selection of kits for your next lesson.  In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact our Tech Support (1-800-EDVOTEK) for any questions!