Johns Hopkins NanoBio Students Enlist in ‘Boot Camp’

Garrett Jenkinson(left) and Teaching Assistant Terrence Dobrowsky during the 2009 Nanobio Boot Camp. Credit: Mary Spiro / JHU

Graduate student fellows affiliated with Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT) training programs hail from diverse academic backgrounds. Some are electrical or biomedical engineers, others are chemists and biologists. But all of them at some point during their academic careers at Hopkins are required to take the core course NanoBio Laboratory (EN 500.621). To make sure that everyone taking the course is familiar with state-of-the-art laboratory techniques, INBT students enlist in a weeklong “boot camp.“ The 2009 boot camp occurred during the third week of January during intersession.

What was the payoff?

“Because students attend the boot camp to learn the advanced techniques beforehand, they can spend more time working to reach the goals set forth during the semester,“ says INBT director Peter Searson, professor of Materials Science and Engineering. “One goal of the NanoBio Lab course is to develop nanotechnology tools for biology and medicine.“

Searson facilitates the NanoBio Lab course and the boot camp with INBT’s associate director Denis Wirtz, professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Boot camp participants agreed that learning the advanced skills now was worth the extra work.

Terrence Dobrowsky explains the art of pipetting to Jacob Koskimaki and Lindsey Smith during the 2009 Nanobio Boot Camp. Credit: Mary Spiro/JHU

Electrical and Computer Engineering IGERT* fellow Garrett Jenkinson had never experimented with cell culturing techniques. “It was interesting to get some results that didn’t come from a computer,“ he says.

“I think all of us learned things we never knew before,“ says Laura Ensign, IGERT* fellow in chemical and biomolecular engineering, who was particularly excited to use some of the imaging techniques. “Live cell imaging was really cool. We were able to make 10-minute movies, then go back and see the cells crawling around. We even saw some cell division,“ she adds.

Graduate students who had previously taken the semester-long NanoBio Lab course served as teaching assistants (TAs). They enhanced their teach skills by teaching the students how to synthesize quantum dots and then how to attach functional groups to them. The group also learned to grow and image live cells with advanced microscopy tools. At the completion of the week, each student had to present a brief portfolio of graphs and images to demonstrate that they understood the concepts covered.

This year’s instructors included INBT graduate students Justin Galloway, an IGERT fellow in Materials Science and Engineering, and Terrence Dobrowsky and Matt Keuss, both NanoBio Med** fellows in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Whiting School of Engineering graduate students Bridget Wildt and Kwan Hyi Lee, both in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, also served as TAs. The boot camp and the semester-long course are taught in INBT’s laboratory in Room 123 of the New Engineering Building.

For a complete list of nanotechnology and nanobiotechnology related courses taught at Johns Hopkins University, visit INBT’s searchable course database, http://inbt.jhu.edu/courses/

*IGERT stands for Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship and is a program funded by the National Science Foundation.

**NanoBio Med fellows are funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health.

Story by Mary Spiro

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