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SHS Biotech Lab: Discovering a Passion for Science


For most of us, the discovery of E. coli bacteria is a cause for concern. But for SHS Biomedical students, it’s just another day in the lab. In fact, they can usually be found “playing” with it.

E. coli is one of the most studied and researched living organism on the planet,” says Alicia Hazard, one of the instructors of SHS’s Biomedical Science courses. “Our students learn how to identify it, grow it, manipulate it, and kill it.”

Hazard, a UNH graduate with degrees in biology and microbiology, modeled the program after her experiences working in the pharmaceutical industry. “I wanted the students to gain practical skills and experience the tools and procedures you find in real-world science and research labs,” she says.

Much of the hands-on activity follows standard procedures found in labs at colleges and throughout the biotech industry.

Students gain experience simulating work with biohazardous material in special cabinets that create an enclosed, sterile environment. They can identify bacteria under the microscope.  They can isolate specific genes and make billions of copies of DNA through a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) process using a Thermal Cycler machine. Other equipment is used to separate and analyze the DNA for light sensitivity, the ability to make specific proteins, or -- in the case of our E. coli example – insert genes to generate a protein to make it glow in the dark. Students also learn how to make and purify enzymes and other proteins.

Second year students are required to complete an independent research project that includes a presentation and creation of scientific posters communicating results. “The research projects really bring all their skills together for a purpose,” explains Hazard. “Some recent topics include looking for meat contamination in veggie burgers, detecting insect contamination in foods, and even analyzing acne creams to identify and evaluate how effective they are at killing bacteria.”

“Some of the recent discoveries and breakthroughs in medical and pharmaceutical industries have come from following the same procedures and lab techniques the students are experiencing here,” Hazard adds. “These kids are going to have a leg up when they go off to college or explore opportunities in lab sciences or research careers.”

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Hands-on experiments -- such as exploring the effect heat has on a substance shown here -- simulate real-world techniques and procedures found in many college labs or industry research facilities.

About the Instructor

Alicia Hazard graduated from UNH with the BS in Biology and a minor in Microbiology. Soon after graduation she got a job working as a microbiologist for Wyeth (now Pfizer) Pharmaceuticals. She worked at Wyeth for seven years and learned many valuable lab skills and techniques.

After several years working, she realized that she had two loves -- the first one is science and the second one is teaching others about science. Alicia decided to go back to school and get her Master’s Degree in Education. She finished her degree, left the lab, and came to teach at Salem High School. Alicia designed the Microbiology course based on her college and work experience.