David A Bender
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Welcome to the virtual laboratory
Laboratory practical classes are an integral part of the education and training of science, medical, dental and veterinary students, but they are expensive to run, and there are valid objections to the unnecessary use of animals for student practical classes.
Practical classes are intended to provide experience in planning and designing experiments and interpreting data, which are important key skills whether students will continue in laboratory science or not, as well as providing a relatively informal atmosphere for interaction between staff and students. Too often they fail these objectives; constraints of class time mean that rather than designing experiments, students frequently simply follow a worksheet, and their results are often too scattered to be amenable to useful interpretation.
Computer simulation of practical classes overcomes most of these problems. Simulated experiments can be changed or repeated many times in a short class. Computer simulations can also be used to plan experiments in advance of a “wet” practical, so making more efficient use of laboratory time.
Mutations in an exon
Nitrogen balance and protein requirements
Sequencing a small peptide
For each simulation there are a number of buttons pages to explain the theory and outline the exercise you will undertake, and a link to run the program. Each program runs in a new window, and you can return to the theory screens by minimising the program window - you do not have to close the program to check the theory.
The programs require an IBM-compatible PC and a local or network disc that can be written to. The program will only run on an Apple Mac® computer if it has PC emulation software installed.
I am happy to make this Virtual Laboratory available as widely as possible. The programs are provided under a Creative Commons Licence. You are free to modify any of the theory pages, but I must ask that you respect my copyright and acknowledge my original authorship. You may not sell any of these programs or associated theory files.
You can download the complete package, ready to install on a network or stand-alone computers by clicking here. This is a 14.6 MB file.
For most of the programs you can save the results of experiments to print out later. The results are saved in files called simout.txt (which is a text file that can be opened in word processing software) and for some programs simout.csv (which can be opened using spreadsheet software for you to carry out further calculations on the data). The programs locate your temporary file directory automatically (this varies from one computer to another, and different networks have very different locations for these files). When you run a program, the full name of these files, and their location, is displayed on the screen. These files are deleted and re-written each time you run a program, so you must save them under a new name if you want to keep them.
This page updated November 14, 2014