Flow Cytometry is a core technology, widely used in research and diagnostic laboratories. Due to its complexity and cost, stringent health and safety requirements as well as the lack of availability of equipment and reagents, the way this important technique is taught at institutions can include minimal, if any, hands on experience for undergraduate students. Furthermore training at a more senior level is time intensive. In recent years, practical classes focused on Flow Cytometry have been discontinued in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences and School of Medical Sciences at UNSW.

With support from a UNSW Learning and Teaching grant, Dr Belinda Ferrari, Associate Professor Nicodemus Tedla, Chris Brownlee and Dr Stephanie Dowdell, together with Alison Murray and Amirtha Kumar from Smart Sparrow, set out to create a virtual laboratory to provide students with a simulated experience of working with a flow cytometer. The goal was to both bring the laboratory back to undergraduate classes and facilitate online training as a first step for more senior users.

The ‘lab bench’ set up User interface for data collection

Figure 1: Screenshots of the Flow Cytometry Virtual Laboratory. Top - The ‘lab bench’ set up. Bottom - User interface for data collection.

Available now on the BEST Network Courseware page, the Flow Cytometry lesson:

  • Provides students with the experience of running flow cytometry instrumentation and associated software to collect data and go through the analysis steps
  • Will ultimately include three pre-prepared datasets that can be used within the simulation to adapt it for different audiences/purposes from medical to biotechnology courses
  • Includes a master tutorial designed to be adapted (with slides that can be edited, added to, or deleted) by all BEST Network users

Furthermore, BEST Network members will be able to upload additional datasets to adapt the virtual laboratory to suit other training purposes.

To use the lesson with your own students click the TEACH WITH THIS button to take a copy into your Smart Sparrow workspace. If you’d like to learn more about this lesson and how you can use it in your own classes, we will be presenting our work at the upcoming Australian Conference on Science and Mathematics Education in Brisbane in September. Alternatively, contact s.dowdell@best.edu.au.