DNA at the heart

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Juniors Kendall Newman and Maggie Davis test their DNA. Arielle Kirven '17

Convent of the Sacred Heart students and faculty traveled to the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in Cold Spring Harbor, New York November 30 to explore the study and application of biology in a real-world setting
Originally founded as a biology training center for teachers and high school students, the laboratory continues to welcome students to its facilities each year, according to cshl.edu.com. The laboratory is also known as the location for scientist Dr. James Watson’s public description of the structure of DNA at the 1953 “Viruses” Symposium.
With an opportunity to test their own DNA, Honors Biology students participated in a workshop titled “Using Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms to Predict Bitter Tasting Ability.” In this workshop, students tested their DNA to see whether it contains the TAS2R38 gene for the ability to taste the phenylthiocarbamide taste receptor, which produces a bitter flavor.

Juniors Kendall Newman and Maggie Davis test their DNA. Arielle Kirven '17
Juniors Kendall Newman and Maggie Davis test their DNA.
Arielle Kirven ’17

During the experiment, about 59 percent of the students tested positive for the TAS2R38 gene while the remaining 41 percent did not.
“Since we learned about the [TAS2R38] gene in class, it was really exciting to analyze our DNA and then examine how it could affect our tasting abilities,” junior and Honors Biology student Kendall Newman said. 
To supplement the experiment, Honors Biology students also visited a museum exhibit within the DNA learning center. The exhibit included a replica of the original DNA model that Dr. Watson presented at the laboratory. The replica allowed many students to learn more about the function and complex structure of DNA.
Like the Honors Biology students, Advanced Placement (AP) Biology students also participated in an experiment at CSHL. Known as the “Genetic Origins” experiment, the virtual test allowed each student to electronically look at DNA sequences and to compare their own DNA with other students and the Neanderthal species. Through the test, students then determined their relation to each other and tracked the evolution and migration of all humans. 
In addition to participating in the “Genetics Origins” experiment, AP Biology students also toured the laboratory of scientist Dr. Jessica Tolkhun, Assistant Professor at the Watson School of Biological Sciences. The Tolkhun Lab focuses on the effects of transient events during brain development on gene expression, circuit function, and behavior, according to cshl.edu.
“Since we are an all-girls school, I specifically reached out to a young female scientist that could be a potential role model,” Upper School science teacher Dr. Kristina Gremski said. “I wanted the students to see what a real research lab looks like and have an opportunity to talk to a female scientist.”
To conclude the field trip, students toured the CSHL research campus. Students were able to see the Watson School of Biological Sciences, a pancreatic cancer research lab located in Nicholls Biondi Hall, and the McClintock Laboratory where Dr. Barbara McClintock discovered the ability of genetic information to transpose from one chromosome to the other, according to womenofthehall.org. 
“At Cold Spring Harbor, we met dedicated scientists who were working on solving important biological issues such as the cure to cancer. Through this experience, I was able to see the benefit of studying biology in school and its effect on the rest of the world,” Kendall said. 
– Arielle Kirven, Co-Arts and Entertainment Editor