It’s a typical day in the Colton Turner Science Building where behind closed doors lab 202 is buzzing with activity. Students of the “Basic Biochemistry” class taught by Steven Romberger, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, are bent over workstations around the room. Test tubes, some with bright pink liquid, and various devices fill the counters. An experiment is underway.
Lab partners Emily Yeckley ’19 and Becca Pochedly ’18 explain that the pink liquid is an extract from hamburger meat. Using a clear glass tube containing a white gel called a column, the budding scientists are attempting to isolate the protein myoglobin, which gives hamburger meat its bright red color.
“We started planning for this experiment about two weeks ago,” says Yeckley, noting that each set of lab partners was charged with development their own experimental procedure with the same end goal of isolating the protein. A crucial step in the experimental process was choosing the type of column to use and learning how to prepare it. At the end of the experiments, students will compare their methods to determine which one is most effective.
“No matter what each student goes on to do, they need to know how this process works,” Dr. Romberger says, adding that this process is the first step in learning about or identifying new proteins, which are often the targets of new medications or therapies.
For Pochedly, who plans to attend the Northeast Ohio Medical University after she graduates from Hiram, this type of lab experience is a valuable opportunity.
“This [designing a purification scheme or pouring a column] is not a typical undergraduate experience,” Pochedly says.
According to the students, Dr. Romberger is a big believer in hands-on learning. This class, in particular, has involved many experiments. The physical application of learned skills helps students to grasp concepts in “more nuanced and realistic ways,” they say.