Gel Electrophoresis with Dyes

Overview & Concepts

How is biotechnology used to answer questions about DNA? Students will learn about gel electrophoresis via a virtual lab and running their own gels.  Teachers can choose a straightforward technique or a paternity case. This lab uses dyes instead of DNA.

Grade Level: 

Concepts Covered: 

Genetics, gel electrophoresis, DNA, biotechnology, paternity

Prior Knowledge Required: 

DNA structure and function should previously have been taught and assessed.

Activity Notes

Days to Teach: 

Gel Electrophoresis virtual lab = 30 min.; Wet lab = 1 block (80 min.)


  • Laptops or a computer with a projection system
  • Supplies for gel electrophoresis lab.  Clear Gatorade can be used as a substitute for the buffer solution; the electrolytes in it work just as well.
  • Handouts: Paternity lab handout OR Gel Electrophoresis of Dyes

Teaching Tips / Activity Overview: 

  1. Begin with a crime story or a clip from CSI to talk about how they analyze DNA and what they can tell from it.
  2. As a whole class or in pairs, do the Virtual Gel Electrophoresis Lab at Using this virtual activity helps students understand the concepts in the actual lab.
  3. Discuss the website and any questions from the students.
  4. Introduce the lab (either Gel Electrophoresis of Dyes or the Paternity Lab Handout). Have the students read over the lab, then review the main ideas and procedure.
  5. Break students into lab groups to do the lab.
  6. Conclude lab with a discussion about the results


Evaluate lab work as well as summative questions at end of lab.



This lesson, designed by Ronita Weaver and Amanda Wolfgang, includes a lab created by Biotechnology in the Classroom at UC Davis.

Academic Standards
Categories & Tags
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Type of Activity: 

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