HIV project


Intended Learning Outcomes


Students will be able to research and find possible solutions to a problem using a biological database.


Students will be able to read and understand amino acid sequences and alignments produced by Biology Workbench.


Students will be able to identify common mutation locations in HIV-1 envelope proteins and human CD4 proteins and make research/treatment recommendations based on this information.


Prior to this lesson

Immediately prior to this lesson the students spent two days becoming familiar with Biology Workbench for Students, and have already set up their own accounts.  Prior to that, they spent a good deal of time learning about viruses in general, and specifically HIV, including history of the epidemic, lifecycle, transmission/prevention, and treatments.  Earlier in the semester the students learned about DNA, protein synthesis, and restriction enzymes.  For each of these topics the students learned what it is and how it is used in biotechnology.  They also learned several lab skills that incorporate these topics.


Detailed lesson plan



5 computers hooked up to the Internet


Posterboard (can be provided by the students)


Day 1

Hand out instructions for the lesson (See Appendix B).  Make sure all students have a copy of the Biology Workbench for Students instruction sheet (See Appendix A).  Have the students find a partner to work with in the computer lab.  Explain that their first job when they get into the computer lab will be to search for envelope glycoprotein from HIV-1 patients (stress that they should not use proteins from HIV-2 patients, since this is a very different strain that is often not lethal like HIV-1).  Tell them that they will not have time to compare all of the proteins they find in a search, so they will need to decide which ones they should use (in the lab, if a group has trouble deciding which to use, suggest that they use location as a way of deciding).  For instance, they may choose to use only protein from American patients, or they may choose to compare proteins from different parts of the world).  Also tell them that they may want to do more than one alignment, based on the sequences they choose to use.  Once they have found the proteins they want to work with, they should research question 1 using the skills they learned in the lesson prior where they were introduced to Biology Workbench. 


The real beauty of this lesson is that the students get to work on their own to solve this problem, and they really could go in all different directions.  It may seem that giving directions such as these may stifle that part of the lesson, but it really is necessary.  Biology Workbench is a fairly complicated tool connected to several huge databases, which makes it difficult to find what you’re looking for even when you know exactly what it is.  Without some direction I think the students would mostly waste a lot of time trying to figure out what to do first, and would have very little time to dig into the problem.


Move the class to the computer lab, and allow the students to use the rest of the period to begin their research.  Circulate around the room to provide assistance with using Biology Workbench, but allow the students to conduct their own research, only offering advice when a particular pair of students seems to be completely stuck.


Again, this lesson is great in that it lets students really work on their own research.  Often a teacher is tempted to guide the students along when they seem to struggle a little.  In this lesson I think it’s really important that the students do spend a little time struggling with the problems.  There may be a couple groups that do get completely stuck and have no idea where to go next, and these groups may need a little extra push in the right direction, but in general it’s better if they can figure it out on their own.


Day 2

Return to the computer lab to continue working on the research they started yesterday.  The students will probably have to spend the entire day working on question 1.  Once again, circulate around the classroom and answer any specific questions about Biology Workbench.  If any students do happen to get finished with question 1, they can begin working on question 2, but tell them that it will be introduced to the entire class tomorrow.


Another part of this lesson that really works well for the dichotomy of students that are in this biotech class is that students really get a chance to work at their own pace.  For the students that do really well in science, they always have the opportunity to move on to the next stage in the project, even if the other students haven’t gotten to that stage yet.  At the same time, student who don’t do as well in science aren’t forced to move on to a new problem when they still don’t understand or aren’t finished with the first problem.


Day 3

Tell the students that they should bring materials to work on their posters tomorrow in case they get done with their research.  Introduce question 2.  Remind the students that we learned earlier in the unit about people who have been repeatedly exposed to HIV, yet have not contracted the virus.  A mutation of the CCR5 protein in human T-cells has been found that increases people’s resistance to HIV.  It has been speculated that this may also be due to mutations in the CD4 protein that HIV binds to on the surface of T-cells.  Their first job in researching question 2 will be to search for CD4 protein.  Move to the computer lab and give the students the rest of the hour to work on their research.  Make sure the students finish researching question 1 before they move on to question 2.


Spending a little time going over this question is probably necessary to help give the students some context for their research.  In previous lessons, the students did already learn about these things, but some of them will probably need to be reminded.  I also think that all of them could benefit from the context being given, so they can spend their time figuring out what they need to look for in their research.


Day 4

Some of the students may be finished with their research today, or may finish during the hour, so introduce the poster at the beginning of the hour.  Go over the required elements of the poster (See Appendix B), and show them an example of a finished poster.  Tell them that they will have tomorrow to work on their posters, but they will have to finish any work they don’t get done in class on their own time.  The day after tomorrow they will be presenting their posters to the rest of the class, and will have to critique each other’s posters using guidelines set up by the teacher (See Appendix C).  Hand out the scoring rubric so the students are aware of the elements on which they will be graded.    Have the students spend the rest of the hour finishing up on their research in the computer lab.  If any of the students are finished with their research they should begin working on their posters.


It’s very important to hand out guidelines for the students, both so that they know what to critique one another on, and so that they know what things are important for them to include on their posters.  The only way for an assessment to be fair is if the students understand exactly what it is that you are assessing.


Day 5

The students should be pretty much finished with their research for the project, so they should spend the day working on their posters.  If anyone still needs to work on the computers, leave the option open for them, but stress that today is the last day they will have to work in class.  Also tell them that they need to make sure that the Conclusion part of their poster is well done, because they will be graded on the recommendations they make.


I actually debated whether or not I should include this day in my lesson.  It probably isn’t necessary to give the students class time to work on their posters, but I decided that I would.  First of all, I think I may get better quality work if the students get some time to work in class.  Also, I wanted to make sure that all of the students had plenty of time to finish all of the research they need to do, and I’m sure that some teams will work faster than others.  This extra day built into the lesson will give the slower teams a chance to finish their research.  I also think that some of the students may realize that they need more printouts from Biology Workbench once they start putting their posters together.  This day will give them a chance to go back and get any extra information they need.


Day 6

Have the students present their posters today.  Take any volunteers who would like to go first, and tell them to leave time at the end of their presentation for questions from the class.  Tell to the class that they need to make sure that they use this time to ask good questions to make sure they fully understand the research the team has done.  They will each have to do a written critique of the other teams presentations, so they need to have a good understanding of their research in order to do a good job on those critiques.  After each presentation is over and the class has finished asking questions, ask any remaining questions, but allow the students the opportunity to ask these questions first.


Having the students critique one another will insure that they are attentive to the other teams presentations.  Since this project is so open, allowing the students to go off in several different directions, I think the students will really learn a lot from the other presentations in the classroom.  Having critiques encourages the students to reflect on what they have learned through other presentations, and also gives all of them (both presenters and critiquers) some insight into how to make a better presentation.