By Stephanie Tam ‘17
To discover more about DNA sequences, the AP Biology class went to Dolan DNA Lab in Harlem on February 23 and March 2 to learn about the different techniques used to extract DNA. This information was used to determine how DNA can be traced back to common ancestors with the same similarities and traits. This connects to the genetics and biotechnology unit that the AP students are learning in class. The instructor, Ms. Lee and Ms. Cornell, helped the students through the complex procedure.
The Harlem DNA Lab helps give New York students a chance to experience working with scientific equipment. It also turns complex science into simple procedures, which students can learn from and enjoy.
At the Harlem DNA lab, the students performed an experiment where they would take their cheek cells and analyze their DNA. First they had to swish salt water into their mouths to capture the cheek cells. They used techniques such as pipetting to transfer their DNA into a smaller test tube to centrifuge it.
“By centrifuging the DNA, we were able to separate the different fluids based on density,” said Emma Theingi ’17.
This process made the DNA easier to pipette and it brought the DNA to the bottom of the test tube. The students then used gel electrophoresis to separate the DNA into fragment. This helped them distinguish the DNA to see which fragments were common with the others.
When the lab sends the DNA sequences, the students will be able to take a closer look at their DNA and compare it to the DNA of their peers. The students can see how they are similar genetically and base it on what they have been learning in class. They can see how they developed from common ancestors and determine what changed biologically.
This trip was beneficial to the students. They were able to learn more about the techniques that scientists used when doing experiments.
“We got to analyze our DNA and use various machines such as a centrifuge, electrophoresis chamber and buffer. It helped us learn more about the extraction process,” Theingi said.
Kizelle Patrice ’17 said, “I have always thought about working at a lab. And this trip opened my eyes to certain possibilities and careers that involve biology. Overall, this was a really awesome experience.”
The students were able to learn by performing the activity in a lab instead of being educated about it in class. It was an interesting experience for the class.
Anne Wang ’17 said, “The lab was a very tactile learning experience and it was good to learn in a different environment. The lab we went to has resources that Midwood doesn’t have, which allowed us to expand our experience.”
Daina Potter ’17 contributed to this article.