Chandler's advanced microbiology elective is unique among middle schools in the United States, giving students the opportunity to actively engage in science using the latest tools of biotechnology. The class is structured as a hands-on lab science, and aims to build a passion for future studies in science.
Students start by culturing bacteria cells from soil samples, and analyze cells through various staining techniques to determine if they are gram-positive or gram-negative. Cells are then lysed and the genomic DNA is extracted.
Through research, students decide what types of bacteria are likely to be discovered, and design oligonucleotides accordingly. These oligonucleotides (small strands of DNA or RNA) are then used as a starting point to amplify a specific sequence of the genomic DNA using a process called PCR (polymerase chain reaction).
Students analyze the amplicons (copies of the genomic DNA) using gel electrophoresis, where nucleic acids are pulled through a gel using an electric current. Students then stain the gels to view under a light source. From these gels, students determine the relative lengths of the genomic strand and the relative abundance.
The second half of the class is more research based, where students investigate other techniques and protocols of DNA extraction. Students investigate their own genetic makeup by analyzing DNA sequences from their own cheek cells. These techniques include the amplification and cutting of DNA using restriction enzymes to produce amplicons of various lengths.
Students learn and apply important lab skills in this class:
- proper lab sterilization procedures
- use of micropipettes
- use of thermocycler (PCR)
- preparation of master mixes
- use of gel electrophoresis
- analysis and interpretation of products
- research skills