DNA Profiling Program Recap by Michelle Biwer
A local branch of the international biotechnology corporation Thermo Fisher conducts outreach every year in my community. They approached our library system with offers of free programs they could run at the library for our patrons.
A group of scientists from Thermo Fisher came to share a 1.5 hour program about DNA profiling for teens at my library. The first 45 minutes of the program highlighted the terminology and background the teens would need to know (What is DNA? How can we match DNA? And the surprising fact that 99% of human DNA is the same from person to person). The presenters used examples from King Tut’s tomb to demonstrate how scientists establish identification, family ties, and other markers from a person’s DNA.
The second half of the presentation was a hands on test of their knowledge. The teens got to separate into groups and actually load DNA samples into a machine and use electrophoresis to separate DNA fragments and look at characteristics of human DNA. They had so much fun using this equipment and asking ridiculous and great questions of the scientists who volunteered their time to assist with this program. I will always remember the middle school boy who asked “If we loaded this machine on my face, would it alter my DNA?” (The answer is no, if you were wondering).
I was pleased with the high turnout from the homeschool community for this event, some families had traveled over an hour to attend the program. I would recommend reaching out to your local Thermo Fisher location or other scientific lab to discuss the possibility of joint programming.
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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