Gene Wiz teaches Blazers how to perform PCR
This past week, the private DNA services company Gene Wiz visited several genetics and biology classes to demonstrate Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), the process of copying DNA. The goal of the visit was to relate what students have learned in class to experiments conducted in actual laboratories.Director of Maryland's Gene Wiz facility Kelvin Shen and sales executive Clover Jinghua Ye conducted experiments with students using a thermocycler, a high-tech machine used to replicate DNA. Shen and Ye worked with students in genetics teacher Angelique Bosse's class on Thursday and Advanced Placement (AP) Biology teacher James Demma's and Darcy Sloe's classes on Friday.
Gene Wiz contacted Bosse early in the semester to set up a visit. "They contacted me and other science programs in Montgomery County and asked about our needs,” she said. Shen and Ye also recently met with Lesli Adler, director of the DNA center at Thomas S. Wootton high school, to plan a visit in the near future. Besides visiting high schools, Gene Wiz also tours colleges where they give speeches, set up exhibits and hold symposiums.
Ye explained the experiment's procedures that the students carried out. "We provided PCR reagents and protocol, then asked the students to mix them,” he said. "We then collected their samples and put them in the PCR machine to run.”
By allowing the students to use the thermocycler, Shen and Ye demonstrated to classes the proper way to copy DNA, something that could not have been done without the professional machine, according to Bosse. "We enjoyed working with the researchers,” Bosse said. "It's nice to have someone from outside come in and show what's being done in a professional lab.”
According to junior Becca Arbacher, who worked with the researchers in Bosse's third period genetics class, the process of PCR is extremely important. "There are many uses for PCR, including taking tiny amounts of DNA found at a crime, making enough of it, then doing experiments to identify it,” she said. "You can also amplify DNA to test for the presence of genetic disease mutations.” Shen and Ye also spoke of the importance of PCR and how it is used in industrial and lab settings for research purposes.Bosse was pleased to host members of the company at Blair. "They provided outreach in molecular biology and genetics,” she said. "They provided support with whatever we needed, including labs, lectures, and resources.” Bosse hopes to have the company return in the future. "It was nice of them to bring in their materials from the lab,” she said. "We're definitely willing to have them again.”
Junior Austin Liou, who also conducted experiments in Bosse's third period class, was also glad that Gene Wiz was able to visit. "It's good practice,” Liou said. "I'm going to be working in a lab this summer, so I need the experience.”
Arbacher hopes that underclassmen get a chance to work with Gene Wiz in the future. "I hope the kids who take genetics next year get to have the same experience, because it was really great to see textbook knowledge put into practice,” she said. "I'm really glad I got to see the process, because it means that I'll really understand what's going on any time my work requires PCR in the future.”
Although she does not see herself having a future in genetics, Arbacher is still happy that she got the opportunity to work with Gene Wiz. "Even if I don't need PCR ever again, it plays a really important role in genetics, and I enjoyed learning about the process and putting it into practice,” she said.
Eli Schwadron. Eli (@eschwad) is a chill guy who likes to play basketball, watch TV and eat. More »