FRA News Details

DNA Lab Hosts First Classes

Our middle and upper school students now have another state-of-the-art innovative space to hone their skills as we opened the new DNA Lab in our Math and Science Building. The DNA Lab, a 500-square-foot space that features a thermocycler for polymerase chain reactions, gel electrophoresis equipment, incubators, water baths, and a wide range of micro-pipets, provides students with the equipment needed to extract, replicate, test genetic materials, and perform genetic tests and procedures. 

Stephanie Feyes, science department chair and biology teacher, is excited to see what impact and influence this space will have on her students. "Biotechnology is currently one of the fastest growing areas of science and industry. It is a skilled based field of science that integrates biology, chemistry, physics, and math in a hands-on, meaningful way. Students are able to do real and original research in a school setting to develop skills that could be used in the future to help make advances in medicine/healthcare, agriculture, industry, and environmental awareness." she said.

Middle school students will use the DNA lab to help introduce DNA and its importance in seventh grade life science, where our students will learn about DNA structure and how to extract and compare the DNA of several species. Upper school students will begin using this space during their freshman year biology I class as they expand on DNA extraction and the process of DNA fingerprinting. AP biology and biotechnology students will be exposed to the process and techniques of polymerase chain reactions (PCR), transformation, DNA fingerprinting, and genetically modified organisms. Criminology students will also have access to the DNA Lab, which will provide a CSI lab space for mock crime scenes. 

Types of learning include:

  • DNA Extraction and Sequencing - Makes DNA from various organisms visible and isolates DNA to identify specific organisms. 
  • DNA fingerprinting - Using the process of gel electrophoresis, students will be able to isolate and compare DNA strands from multiple organisms. This technique is used in CSI labs to determine if a suspect committed a crime (criminology class specifically) and it is also used in paternity testing.
  • Cloning and Transformations - By taking a gene from one organism and adding it to the DNA of another organism, students will create genetically modified organisms. For example, students will isolate the bioluminescence gene from a jellyfish (what makes it glow in the dark) and add the "glow" gene to bacteria, which will then glow in the dark. 
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) - Takes small amounts of DNA and replicates it to produce larger samples that can be tested for crime scene evaluation and for testing of genetically modified organisms.

The DNA Lab joins the Innovation Lab, which opened in 2017, to provide students with the opportunity to learn in spaces that challenge them to be critical thinkers and learners as they prepare for jobs that may not even be created yet. "We believe our students are creative and innovative thinkers. If we are able to put them in new spaces that open up novel opportunities to learn, create, and experiment, they will lead the way. Our job is to help provide these spaces and then surround them with faculty who can guide their process of innovating and exploring. We’ve seen this phenomenon in our Innovation Lab, and the DNA Lab will offer similar opportunities in genetics," said Prentice Stabler, head of upper school.

By being exposed to the DNA Lab and the skills and techniques it provides, our students will have a better understanding and knowledge that will benefit them as they enter college and their professional careers. "A space like the DNA Lab is important because it gives our students experience in a lab setting that is focused on a specific skill set. Exposure to the techniques and procedures that are the foundation of the biotechnology field will give our students firsthand experience before even attending a college class. They will be a step ahead of their peers in their knowledge of biotechnology, as well as their lab technique.This new space strengthens our science department because we are able to provide our students with a wider range of course offerings and experiences. The lab will also allow our students to dive deeper into a relevant topic that is continuing to develop and extremely interesting," said Feyes.