Department of Chemistry

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Polymerase chain reaction and restriction endonuclease digest are important techniques that should be included in all Biochemistry and Molecular Biology laboratory curriculums. These techniques are frequently taught at an advanced level, requiring many hours of student and faculty time. Here we present two inquiry-based experiments that are designed for introductory laboratory courses and combine both techniques. In both approaches, students must determine the identity of an unknown DNA sequence, either a gene sequence or a primer sequence, based on a combination of PCR product size and restriction digest pattern. The experimental design is flexible, and can be adapted based on available instructor preparation time and resources, and both approaches can accommodate large numbers of students. We implemented these experiments in our courses with a combined total of 584 students and have an 85% success rate. Overall, students demonstrated an increase in their understanding of the experimental topics, ability to interpret the resulting data, and proficiency in general laboratory skills.