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Crime scene forensics studied in biology

Is there a criminal lurking on campus? No, actually the imaginary criminal came in the form of a DNA sample kit. Annette Sarkissian led a DNA fingerprinting lab in her biology classes during Nov. 17-21.

The class was learning the technique of matching human DNA to a sample. This is the same technique used by forensic officers to catch criminals or match evidence to a body.

“We took the samples of DNA sent to us in a kit and mixed them with an enzyme,” Damon O’Brien, ’05, said. “We did this to split the basic pairs of the DNA at certain points. The DNA was then put aside for 24 hours.”

The next day students stained the DNA and added them to a gel to separate the different DNA fragments. The mixture was then electrophoresed and left to sit in a staining solution another day.

Currently, biology students are studying genetics. Because genes are located on DNA and are special to each person, this lab was related to the study of genetics.

“”DNA is unique to each individual and can be used to identify suspects at a crime scene,”” Sarkissian said. “”There are lots of things that it [DNA fingerprinting] can be used for. It shows students how science is part of every day life.””

Michelle DiBuduo, ’06, thought the lab was difficult but interesting.

“”It was a good lab,”” DiBuduo said. “”It taught me to follow directions and to concentrate. It’s fun getting involved.””

After the third day, the DNA should have become visible after the staining process, but something went wrong. Apparently, the DNA was not loaded into the gel, only the staining solution.

Since DNA is denser than the liquid, it was left at the bottom of the tubes by mistake.

“We thought we had loaded the DNA, but we didn’t,” Sarkissian said. “It must have been left in the microtubes we had the DNA in.”

To show the fragments of DNA, the fragments must show a DNA fragment match with the DNA from the crime scene. Although the lab did not produce the desired results, this is another example of kinesetic learning put into practice.

For more information on genes and DNA, visit www.eurekascience.com/ICanDoThat/dna_intro.htm.

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