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  • Writer's pictureJolene Pappas

Cell Cycle and Mitosis Virtual Lab

The cell cycle simulation is a virtual option for a classic biology lab. This can be used as extra practice or an extension of the hands-on lab and is not intended as a replacement for lab work. The data has random components, so the exact numbers will not be the same every time. The simulation and the associated virtual labs draw from Lab 3 in the old AP Biology Lab Manual and Investigation 7 from the current AP Biology Investigative Labs.  

There are three provided virtual labs. One is aimed at an introductory high school class (Cell Cycle - Time) and requires students to compare the relative amount of time spent in each phase. The other two are aimed at the AP/introductory college level and involve comparing the impact of different treatments on the cell division rate by comparing the proportion of dividing and non-dividing cells. One is set up for a casual comparison (Cell Cycle - Treatments), while the other utilizes a chi-square test (Cell Cycle - Chi-square Analysis)…more details are below.

In addition to the virtual labs, students can practice identifying different cell division stages within the simulation. The number of cells in each phase can be entered and checked to ensure students have basic identification skills. This functionality could be utilized as general practice or to prepare for completing a hands-on lab. 

A few notes for the chi-square analysis worksheet…

This lab can successfully introduce students to a basic chi-square calculation and the interpretation of results. The walkthrough presented in the worksheet assumes that students are relatively new to statistical analysis. The definitions and explanations of terms like null hypothesis, p-value, and critical value are introductory only but, they meet the needs of the AP Biology curriculum.

There is one major limitation to using this simulated data for practicing chi-squared analysis. Because the simulation has 100 cells produced for each sample, no calculation is necessary to determine the expected values. To compensate for this, there is an additional sample problem at the end of the chi-square virtual lab. In addition, this lab will not be students’ only exposure to the chi-square calculation. Students will need to practice more with this analysis during AP Biology Units 5 (Heredity) and 7 (Natural Selection). 

Here are some Biology Simulations resources that utilize chi-square analysis:

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