The Poisson distribution played a key role in experiments that had a historic role in the development of molecular biology. In particular, the interpretation and design of experiments elucidating the actions of bacteriophages and their host bacteria during the infection process were based on the parameters of the Poisson distribution. I briefly review three of the most important of these experiments and offer suggestions on the use of the Poisson distribution in statistical calculations in biology laboratory exercises reflecting the use of the Poisson distribution in current biological investigations.
We propose a procedure for the assay of fermentation in yeast in microcentrifuge tubes that is simple and rapid, permitting assay replicates, descriptive statistics, and the preparation of line graphs that indicate reproducibility. Using regression and simple derivatives to determine initial velocities, we suggest methods to compare the effects of experimental variables. This technique is straightforward enough to facilitate design of an inquiry lab based on a scenario that explores modifications to enhance the rate of fermentation.