Education: DNA replication using microscale natural convection
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There is a need for innovative educational experiences that unify and reinforce fundamental principles at the interface between the physical, chemical, and life sciences. These experiences empower and excite students by helping them recognize how interdisciplinary knowledge can be applied to develop new products and technologies that benefit society. Microfluidics offers an incredibly versatile tool to address this need. Here we describe our efforts to create innovative hands-on activities that introduce chemical engineering students to molecular biology by challenging them to harness microscale natural convection phenomena to perform DNA replication via the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Experimentally, we have constructed convective PCR stations incorporating a simple design for loading and mounting cylindrical microfluidic reactors between independently controlled thermal plates. A portable motion analysis microscope enables flow patterns inside the convective reactors to be directly visualized using fluorescent bead tracers. We have also developed a hands-on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) exercise based on modeling microscale thermal convection to identify optimal geometries for DNA replication. A cognitive assessment reveals that these activities strongly impact student learning in a positive way.
author list (cited authors)
Priye, A., Hassan, Y. A., & Ugaz, V. M.