New Dynamic Resources to Enhance Skills in Agarose Gel Electrophoresis Analysis

Yasmin Wong
July 12, 2023

Agarose gel electrophoresis plays a pivotal role in the ever-evolving bioscience and biomedical science industries. However, many undergraduate students often have finite opportunities to carry out this technique repeatedly in order to experience the range of errors that can be introduced, leaving them with only a limited understanding of this technique.

To bridge this knowledge gap, we've crafted a dynamic set of Smart Worksheets that grant students unparalleled exposure to agarose gel electrophoresis analysis. Using our advanced algorithmically-generated representations of agarose gel results means students can build skills in results interpretation, error management and planning experiments over and over again.

Screenshot of Analytical Foundations worksheet being show on a laptop

Building Confidence in Gel Analysis and Troubleshooting Skills

In research and industry, a comprehensive understanding of agarose gel electrophoresis is essential. Students must not only grasp how to perform the technique itself but also develop competence in rapid analysis of results. Our Smart Worksheets empower students to perform accurate analysis in real-world, practical scenarios by instilling confidence in their ability to assess gel quality, identify errors that impact data analysis, and implement effective solutions.

“What I really like about this set of Smart Worksheets, is the progressive nature of them. They give students a chance to see and consider the impact of technical error and how it may or may not affect the interpretation of results. This encourages students to think more critically about their own technical skills and evaluate their data more confidently.”
Professor Leanne Williams (Director of Teaching Innovation), School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick

Using our dynamic algorithmic image generation, students can explore and analyse different agarose gel results every time they access the worksheets. This provides exposure to a wide variety of gel results, allowing students to repeatedly practise analysis and interpretation of results that would ordinarily take days in a laboratory setting.

Analytical Foundations worksheet which covers; Explaining how and why molecules move through an agarose gel, comparing and measuring migration distances, and generating standard curves. Identifying and troubleshooting errors worksheet which covers; Understanding the effect of gel preparation on experimental outcome, selecting an appropriate time and voltage, and identifying errors and their effect on experimental results. Designing and Running Experiments worksheet which covers; selecting appropriate controls, predicting expected experimental outcomes,determining the identity of a pathogen, and assessing risk of a genetic disease
An overview of each of the Smart Worksheets: Analytical Foundations, Identifying and Troubleshooting Errors, and Planning and Running Experiments.
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Prime - Analytical Foundations

Students explore the key features of a gel, and take advantage of multiple opportunities to practise recognising and interpreting the meaning of idealised gel results. This builds their skillset in informed interpretation of gels in their own experiments and those encountered in published literature.

On the left, visual representation of a gel with an interactive slider to measure the band distance. On the right, a table which students must fill out with the migration distances measured. The screenshot shows an example of feedback to help students when they answer incorrectly.
Interactive slider elements allow students to measure the distance of bands and gain experience analysing results accurately.

Apply - Identifying and Troubleshooting Errors

This sheet provides an overview of a wide variety of errors and common issues students may encounter when running an agarose gel.

The sheet explores issues:

  • when running a gel
  • preparing a gel, including common practical errors
  • when loading samples 
  • encountered after runs

The sheet not only offers exposure to error, but helps students develop an understanding of how to:

  • identify, manage and avoid the errors in future;
  • analyse and correct them using a practical approach;
  • understand the efficacy of results that aren’t ideal and whether they should or shouldn’t influence their interpretation.

An example question from the 'Identifying and troubleshooting errors' worksheet. Three agarose representations are shown with different results.
Students will be tasked with determining the quality of the gels produced, as well as the experimental conditions which may have produced errors or non-optimal results.

Integrate - Planning and Running Experiments

In the third worksheet, students explore the next stage of autonomy and their technical understanding by planning experiments in two separate applications of agarose gel electrophoresis. Students are rarely given the opportunity to plan and virtually carry out experiments from beginning to end. This sheet aims to support students with the decisions that need to be made during experimental planning, and builds understanding of how to troubleshoot errors in real time and obtain meaning from the results through accurate analysis.

An example question from the 'Designing and Running Experiments' worksheet. The image shows 4 DNA ladder representations, with the question "Which ladder should be used?.
Students will gain experience making experimental design decisions; for example, which size of ladder to use based on their PCR product size.

Interactive Analysis and Comprehensive Exposure to Gels

The sheets feature exciting elements that allow a higher level of interactivity with gel electrophoresis results. Similar to our other Smart Worksheet solutions, these sheets offer personalised instant feedback based on students' specific answers. This means immediate support, allowing students to learn and progress in real-time with no waiting for manual marking. Students then receive a skills review at the end of each sheet that highlights the skills they have developed by completing the sheet.

The new worksheets also complement existing theory and technique-based LabSims, which build familiarity and confidence in practical skills, such as pouring an agarose gel and loading and running agarose gels, and build understanding of how DNA moves through conductive solutions.

Additionally, the sheets offer an array of gel visualisations, including viewing under UV light with ethidium bromide and SYBR Green, with representation of different simulated errors. This exposure aims to help students become familiar with gel results that vary in quality, readying them for real-world applications and enabling them to apply critical evaluation of their own experimental method, results and interpretation.

Three representations of the agarose gel electrophoresis results presented in the Smart Worksheets.
Different agarose gel electrophoresis results are represented in the Smart Worksheets, offering exposure to different stains and common errors encountered with this technique.

Elevate Skill Development in Agarose Gel Analysis on Your Course

Incorporating these Smart Worksheets into undergraduate lab courses offers multiple versatile applications that enhance the learning experience. 

The sheets integrate into pre-lab material, preparing students for their practical work. Being equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills means students enter the lab confidently, ready to engage with the techniques and analysis. They can serve as engaging exercises within lectures, allowing students to apply practical examples to theoretical concepts. And they can be seamlessly integrated into training programs for undergraduate research lab placements, empowering students to succeed in their future research.

However, the value of these worksheets also extends beyond undergraduate education as they serve as valuable introductory materials for technicians and postgraduates that need to to refresh their skills or are new to this technique. The comprehensive exposure to diverse gel outputs provides a solid foundation for developing analytical skills that are essential in professional and postgraduate contexts, as well as undergraduate.

With these new worksheets, your students' learning experiences can be elevated, allowing them to engage in repeated analysis and interpretation, fostering mastery of this essential technique. For access to these resources, request a free, personalised demo, or get in touch with us at