Aptamers have a well-earned place in therapeutic, diagnostic, and sensor applications, and we now show that they provide an excellent foundation for education, as well. Within the context of the Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) at The University of Texas at Austin, students have used aptamer selection and development technologies in a teaching laboratory to build technical and 21st century skills appropriate for research scientists. One of the unique aspects of this course-based undergraduate research experience is that students develop and execute their own projects, taking ownership of their experience in what would otherwise be a traditional teaching lab setting. Of the many successes, this work includes the isolation and characterization of novel calf intestinal alkaline phosphatase (anti-CIAP) RNA aptamers by an undergraduate researcher. Further, preliminary survey data suggest that students who participate in the aptamer research experience express significant gains in their self-efficacy to conduct research, and their perceived ability to communicate scientific results, as well as organize and interpret data. This work describes, for the first time, the use of aptamers in an educational setting, highlights the positive student outcomes of the aptamer research experience, and presents the research findings relative to the novel anti-CIAP aptamer.
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