Hands-on laboratory experience is a significant part of our science curriculum at Central. Over the past few weeks, two Central science courses, AP Biology, taught by Mrs. Ruth Fried, and Forensics, taught by Mrs. Shulamith Biderman, have engaged in biotechnology laboratory experiments during two full-day visits to the Dolan DNA Learning Center in Cold Spring Harbor. “These labs bring what we teach in the classroom to life,” said Mrs. Biderman. “These hands-on experiences are crucial.”

During their first visit on Wednesday, February 23, both classes completed rounds of restriction enzyme analysis and bacterial transformation. Restriction enzyme analysis, a technique for comparing differently sized particles of DNA, was used to separate DNA fragments based on size and electrical charge. Bacterial Transformation is a technique by which students insert a novel piece of DNA into a bacterium, enabling it to synthesize new proteins. For their particular lab, our students inserted an antibiotic resistance gene for ampicillin, tagged with a green fluorescent protein gene from a jellyfish, to develop transformed bacteria that could grow on an ampicillin-laced medium while glowing fluorescent green.

On Wednesday, March 2, students returned to the Dolan DNA Learning Center, where each section performed a DNA Fingerprinting lab specific to the focus of its curriculum. Forensics students examined a highly variable tandem repeat polymorphism, like the ones used by the FBI for DNA fingerprinting. “Our trip to the DNA Learning Center was a unique opportunity that allowed us to identify perpetrators by comparing their DNA with genetic evidence found at crime scenes,” said Leah Cherson, a senior from Hewlett. “The visit allowed us to get hands-on experience while having fun.”

AP Biology students examined a transposon, a “jumping gene” that is unique in its presence for each individual. Under the supervision of Research Methodology instructor Dr. Jason Williams, both groups of students prepared a sample of their own DNA from cells obtained by a technique using saline mouthwash. Their samples were amplified using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and then analyzed using gel electrophoresis and DNA chip analyzers. Students then compared their own personal DNA results to a broad genetics bank, using computer bioinformatics analysis in the computer lab of the DNALC.

“At the Dolan DNA Learning Center, I took the knowledge that I learned in Mrs. Fried’s AP Biology class and applied it to real life,” said senior Talia Hazan, of Flushing. “Using the science to analyze my own DNA was fascinating. I especially appreciated having the opportunity to use the biotechnology equipment and learn new skills in the laboratory.”

The AP Biology class also performed an accompanying experiment in which students barcoded the DNA of various fruits, including papaya, green and golden kiwis, and bananas. “These fruits have similar enzymes, and people who have an allergy to one tend to have allergies to the others,” said senior Dara Khaimov of Woodmere. “Our goal is to sequence the DNA to see if there is an evolutionary relationship between the fruits.” The experiment, titled “Go Bananas for Kiwis and Papayas,” will be presented by Central students at a symposium at the end of May.