July 10, 2006
UPTON, NY - Through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and WARD'S Natural Science of Rochester, NY, have developed four science education kits, which are used as hands-on learning tools in the classroom for middle school, high school, and college students. Marketed by WARD'S, the kits focus on environmental chemistry and life science.
"We worked directly with the scientists at Brookhaven Lab to identify the kit concepts," said Scott Bronson, an education coordinator in the Laboratory's Office of Educational Programs who turned the concepts into the educational kits. "The kits provide a context for teaching scientific principles, and with the materials and instruction provided, students can perform experiments themselves. Hundreds of students participating in educational programs at Brookhaven tested the kits before they were marketed."
Students can learn about environmental chemistry by using two kits that are based on a green-chemistry process invented by Brookhaven Lab scientists. The kits include all naturally occurring materials - citric acid, common soil, and benign bacteria - to remove metal contaminants from soil. Using the kit, students can safely extract iron, used as a model for a metal contaminant, from soil using citric acid, the same acid that is present in citrus fruit. With the aid of another kit, they can then use harmless bacteria to remove the iron from solution, a process called bioremediation. The same processes are potential solutions for cleanup of industrial sites around the world.
Brookhaven Lab's A.J. Francis, one of the supporting researchers for the environmental chemistry kits, noted that he was "excited that students are able to learn some of the basic concepts involved in bioremediation of contaminated sites by replicating some of our research in the classroom."
Another kit involves the use of the T7 bacterial virus, which forms the basis of the T7 expression system, developed and patented at Brookhaven in the 1980s and 1990s, and used worldwide by academia and industry to produce specific proteins within bacterial cells. With the tools in the kit, students are able to use T7 to infect a harmless strain of the bacterium E. coli. Because the E. coli has been genetically engineered to express green fluorescent protein only after infection, students can determine where infections have occurred with the aid of ultraviolet light. Using T7 as a model, students also can safely learn about other viruses, such as HIV, influenza and SARS.
F. William Studier, a Brookhaven scientist who has long worked with T7 to learn about basic genetic and biochemical processes, commented, "T7 grows rapidly and results come quickly, and students should have fun working with it. I certainly do."
With the tools in a protein extraction and purification kit, students can learn techniques that scientists use at Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source to study biological materials. Using chromatography, a technique to identify the components of chemical mixtures, students learn how to extract and purify green fluorescent protein from jellyfish. Students also can learn about a technique called protein crystallography, a critical process in determining a protein's structure.
The four kits are advertised in WARD'S catalog as part of its new product showcase. Jeff Douglass, President of WARD'S Natural Science, said, "We are honored to partner with Brookhaven National Laboratory to bring revolutionary science within the reach of students and teachers everywhere. The Nobel Prize-caliber of science at Brookhaven Lab and the 145 years of education expertise at WARD'S create a powerful combination of innovation and technology."
2006-511 | Media & Communications Office
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