February 15, 2010
Amrita School of Biotechnology, Amritapuri
The Amrita School of Biotechnology offers bachelors and masters degrees in Biotechnology, Microbiology and Bioinformatics. Students enrolling at the School have the opportunity to study advanced subjects such as Pharmaco-genomics and Computational Biology.
“One handicap, however, is the ability to provide adequate lab time for training,” states Dr. Shyam Diwakar, Assistant Professor at the School. “Now we have started a new trend by making labs available to students online.”
In partnership with the Government of India’s Sakshat initiative, these Amrita Virtual Labs, focus on helping students retain the real feel of a laboratory, while conducting the experiment from an internet-enabled computer terminal, much in the same way he or she would, in a real lab.
Various approaches are used. There may be remote triggering of equipment, using measurement data from experiments, or simulations and interactive animations. Some virtual labs even use haptics technology to convey essential feedback to the student.
Several virtual labs are already online for public use. Visit Website »
A paper titled Biotechnology Virtual Labs – Integrating Wet-lab Techniques and Theoretical Learning for Enhanced Learning at Universities was presented by Dr. Diwakar at the 2010 International Conference on Data Storage and Data Engineering (DSDE), Feb 10, at Bangalore.
Paper authors included Dr. Krishnashree Achuthan and Prema Nedungadi in addition to Dr. Diwakar. The paper will be included in IEEE Xplore, and submitted to the Thomson ISI, Ei Compendex and INSPEC for indexing.
“For enhanced education at the level of institution courses such as those in biology or biotechnology, one of the key elements is the need of time and expertise to allow the student to familiarize with laboratory techniques on par with regular theory,” states the paper abstract.
“The Sakshat Amrita virtual biotechnology lab project focusing on virtualizing wet-lab techniques and integrating the learning experience has added a new dimension to the regular teaching courses at the institution.
Establishing virtual labs requires both domain knowledge and virtualizing skills via programming, animation and device-based feedback. Challenges in the biotechnology sector in setting up a laboratory that integrates both the feel and phenomenon includes a medley of multiple techniques.
This work includes one such cost-effective process used in virtualizing a real biotechnology lab at the institution-level. The major challenge in setting up an effective knowledge dissemination for laboratory courses was not only the scientific approach of biotechnology, but included the virtualization aspects such as usage/design scalability, deliverability efficiency, network connectivity issues, security and speed of adaptability to incorporate and update changes into existing experiments. The published paper also discusses an issue-specific case-study of a functional virtual lab in biotechnology and its many issues and challenges.”