Teaching and Learning  

Students Learn Biotech Techniques during Summer Lab Internship in Thailand

NTU’s many summer school programs provide students with substantial learning opportunities as well as a summer filled with fun and games.  For those who signed up for the College of Life Science internship program in Thailand, this was no exception.

Each year, a group of selected students travel to Thailand to take part in a two-month summer laboratory internship program at the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), a research center under the National Science and Technology Development Agency.

During the internship, the students work five days a week conducting experiments in the laboratory where they are guided and mentored by the center’s researchers.  They also meet with their instructors each week to discuss their progress, breakthroughs, and possible obstacles.   When encountering unanticipated experimental data or results, their instructors encourage them to first think about possible solutions before returning for further discussion.  Despite the tight schedule and high degree of pressure, the students always come away from the program with some precious new experimental techniques as well as the feeling of been been greatly enriched by the experience.

In last year’s program, the students were assigned to BIOTEC’s Biocontrol Research Laboratory, where they performed experiments exploring the research topic “Polyketide synthase genes in the fungus Beauveria bassiana and their expression in ex-vivo cultured insect tissue.”  In addition to learning how to prepare ex-vivo cultures and observe insects and fungi, they also gained the opportunity to experiment using important molecular biology lab techniques, including RNA extraction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), DNA electrophoresis, primer design, and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). During the program, the members from the laboratory also provided special guidance to help the students understand the reasoning behind their experiments’ results.

At the end of the program, each student presented a report on the results of his or her experiment.  Although the two-month program did not allow enough time for the students to build up abundant and comprehensive data, they did find the process of learning itself to be far more valuable than were their experimental results.  A past participant put it best in saying that the most important takeaway from the internship was learning to conduct experiments, interpret data, and design each stage of an experiment in detail.