Science educators use the Pioreactor to show their students hands-on biology
A core skill of biotech is understanding and scaling cell culture technology. This skill has massive possibilities for our future too: extracting biofuels from algae farms recent developments
in cellular agriculture will disrupt what we eat, and so on. Computer-aided protein design is happening now, and the scaling of production and extraction from microbial cells is still an engineering challenge. Students want to see the "full-stack" of biology today: book-led principles and hands-on practices.
The Pioreactor is a great teaching aid to demonstrate both the principles and modern practices of microbiology and biotech. You can use it to study topics like microbial growth stages, fermentation, enzyme reactions, microbial resistance to antibiotics, to evolution. The Pioreactor can be deployed for many in-class experiments and tutorials, see below for some examples.
High school level curriculum
Intro to microbiology
Students get a hands-on understanding of the lag, exponential and stationary phases of microorganisms, and the effect of nutrients and temperature on growth. Students can observe a single Pioreactor, or groups of students can be given their own Pioreactor. Providing students with different types of media (like glucose, fructose, etc.), and varying temperatures, will give students intuition for the growth requirements for microorganisms.
Example experiment with the Pioreactor: Yeast growth on varying temperature.
How bioreactors work
Students can be exposed to simple bioreactor principles: optical density, maintaining static environments, stirring, aeration, etc.
University level curriculum
Influence of nutrients on growth rates
Microbiology students can study the effect of how changing nutrients effects growth rate of yeast or bacteria. A practical lab may have the students prepare varying media, set up the Pioreactors, and after a few days, export the growth rates dataset. By comparing the composition of the media with the growth rate curves, students can perform an analysis of what the effect of specific nutrients may be.
Example experiment: Comparing how light conditions affect algae growth
Goal: demonstrate how varying both the intensity and composition of light on an algae culture will affect growth. Students can build and program their Pioreactor themselves to try to grow more algae than some baseline. Students may choose specific wavelengths of LEDs, varying intensity of LEDs, and different on/off cycles of the LEDs.
For a multi-week experiment, students can set up the Pioreactor in morbidostat mode, and study how evolution occurs in real time. For example, observing how yeast evolve higher salt-tolerance, or how bacteria evolve antibiotic resistance. If available, performing DNA sequencing on the original strain and the evolved strains lets students compare the pre and post genomes of the microbes.
Electrical engineering or biotech labs extend the Pioreactor
For electrical engineering or biotech courses, students get to hack on the Pioreactor and extend its capabilities. Small computer programs can be written ontop of the Pioreactor's open API, too.