Students Get DNA Lessons

ST. MARYS — Local students participated in their first “in-school field trip,” where they learned how to find their own DNA code, during a science class on Friday.

The students in Tami Golliday’s cell biology and genetics course at St. Marys Memorial High School stayed in Golliday’s classroom all day Friday to participate in an extensive, first-time lab where they extracted DNA and found the DNA code, similar to what is done in forensics.

“We’re calling it an in-school field trip because it gave us the opportunity to do an activity we would’ve had to leave the grounds to do, and it would’ve been very expensive,” Golliday said.

Friday’s activity involved PCR (or polymerase chain reaction)-based VNTR (or variable number of tandem repeats) human DNA typing, to create a person’s “DNA fingerprint.”

The process is commonly used for determining paternity/maternity, kinship, identification of human remains and the genetic basis of various diseases, with the majority of its uses being in the field of criminal forensics.

“First, they got DNA from their own eyebrow hairs,” Golliday said. “After they harvested the DNA, using the PCR technique, they have to replicate the DNA.”

She noted the students prepared a gel to perform electrophoresis.

“They will create a gel and insert the DNA into a well on the gel,” Golliday said. “They will put it into a buffer — something that will conduct electricity — and turn on the gel, and the electricity will migrate through the gel, which separates the DNA into bands. The bands are unique to each individual.”

Two of Golliday’s students told The Evening Leader they were enjoying Friday’s experiment.

“It’s fun,” junior Mercedes Silver said.

“It’s something new that we’ve never done before, so it’s exciting and interesting to learn.”

Sophomore Marissa Engle also said she found the experiment “interesting.”

“It’s interesting, just how we can find our own DNA code,” she said.

Golliday noted this experiment was the first of its kind for her class, which features students in grades 10 to 12.

“It gives the students an opportunity to have an experiment with biotechnology techniques used in medicinal, agricultural and legal settings,” she said.