Yeshiva University High School for Girls (Central) students in AP Biology and Forensics recently ventured beyond school to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to further their study of genetics. They toured the facility, learning about Watson and Crick, and viewing models of the chemical structure of DNA. Most of their time, though, was spent in the lab.
Under the direction of Ms. Shulamith Biderman, the students first experimented with some of the basics of genetics in two lab experiments. The first, entitled “DNA Restriction Analysis,” allowed students to practice the art of cutting and manipulating DNA through the use of restriction enzymes, otherwise known as “the scissors of molecular biologists.” After successfully separating DNA from the bacteriophage lambda using these enzymes, they then analyzed the DNA using gel electrophoresis. The next lab, entitled “Bacterial Transformation,” demonstrated the direct link between genotype and phenotype, or DNA and observable characteristics. Students manipulated the genetic material of E. coli bacteria, adding a gene for antibiotic resistance. They then compared these bacteria to a control group, evaluating which group grew better in the presence of the antibiotic ampicillin. They observed that the bacteria in the experimental group flourished while those in the control group did not.
Both of these labs were preparation for the next one, which took place for AP Biology on February 21 (the Forensics class will return to Cold Spring Harbor in March). Already well acquainted with DNA cutting and analysis, students swabbed their own cheek cells and then, using the gel electrophoresis technique they had practiced a week earlier, analyzed their own DNA for the presence of the Alu allele. The class aggregated its results and studied them as a microcosm of human population genetics. Finally, the class used the BioServers website to understand the distribution and presence of Alu allele in populations around the globe. Students Leeba Sullivan and Yael Laks said that “the visit was very engaging and interesting, and furthered what we are learning in class.”