Thanks to a very successful and fast-moving Educational Excellence fundraising campaign, students are already working hands-on with the latest biotech equipment.
Juniors are now using newly purchased micropipettes in their required biology course, and seniors are using new micropipettes and miniPCR machines in AP Biology. In a recent lab that ran over several days, AP Bio students went through a multistep process to isolate an intron (non-coding) region of chromosome 15 to see if each individual has a particular viral insertion called Alu repeats. They first collected saliva samples and ran them through a centrifuge to isolate the DNA. They put their samples in a cool bath and a hot bath. They then left the samples in a miniPCR machine to amplify the section of DNA they were interested in. At the end, they ran the samples against control samples using gel electrophoresis to visualize the DNA segment. They compared their data with the North American published data to look at allele frequencies and connect this to evolutionary concepts. "The students were very excited to learn whether they had the genes that allowed them to taste a bitter compound called PTC," stated science teacher Shu-Yee Chen.
The AP Bio classes had some "incredible results" with the gels they produced in the miniPCR machines according to Heather Haines, Science Department chair. The gels produced in the miniPCR machines showed whether students were PTC tasters or non-tasters.
Seniors in elective courses like Forensics will also have a chance to use the new equipment. Current sophomores and freshmen will benefit when their turn to take biology arrives, and on future students for many years.
The Science Department got a wonderful boost when Rubius Therapeutics, a local biotech company, heard about the Ed Ex campaign through an NPS family. The company was relocating and wanted to get rid of extra equipment and supplies. Heather Haines, department chair, was invited to pick up supplies she felt would be useful, and she returned to Newton North with 100 micropipettes and lots of equipment that teachers will put to good use in their classrooms.