Introduction to Gel Electrophoresis and DNA Analysis (Lead PI: Jim Hazzard)

Introduction to Gel Electrophoresis and DNA Analysis
Students Reached:  83 tenth grade students
Lead Researcher: Dr. James Hazzard, University of Arizona
Lead Teacher:  Mr. Stephen Wollerman, San Miguel High School in Tucson, AZ

All the students at San Miguel High School come from low-income families, and most (85%) are from groups underrepresented in STEM. The goal of the school’s administration is to see 30% of San Miguel graduates go on to earn a STEM college degree or to work in a STEM related field. This program not only incorporated experimental and inquiry-driven learning into the regular and Honors Biology course materials, but also taught these students how to perform the essential biochemical techniques of gel electrophoresis and DNA analysis. Dr. James Hazzard, of the University of Arizona, and Mr. Stephen Wollerman, of San Miguel High School, built on their existing relationship to design the two in-class experiments students performed to learn more about DNA and how it is analyzed.

In the first of these experiments, students were given multiple dye molecules with differing electrostatic charge as well as a mystery dye combination. These samples were run on agarose gels that they had poured themselves in order to characterize the relative size and charge of each dye used, as well as to determine what dyes were present in their mystery dye combination. In the second experiment, students were asked to solve the mystery of who stuck chewing gum under Mr. Wollerman’s chair via DNA fingerprinting methodology. Each group was given DNA samples from the three “key suspects” that had been treated with restriction enzymes and DNA from the gum that had been similarly treated. After separating out these DNA samples by gel electrophoresis, the students had to identify the culprit based on the “fingerprinting” patterns of the standards.

Mr. Wollerman and Dr. Hazzard based these experiments on modified protocols from the University of Arizona Biotech Project website (biotech.bio5.org), and personnel from this group (Alexis Duarte and Daniel Soltero) who helped Mr. Wollerman lead these in-class exercises.

The majority of students who had never previously done these types of experiments found them very useful in teaching the fundamentals of DNA analysis as well as being technically very challenging. Student scores on post-experiment evaluations confirm that they did improve in their understanding of this material.

ASBMB HOPES funding was used to purchase DNA slab gel devices, DNA and other project materials, and to support Biotech Project personnel who assisted in administering the lab exercises. Now that the gel devices have been purchased, it will be easier to continue and expand this program in the future.

HazzardWollerman_1  HazzardWollerman_2

Left: Student observations of gases at electrodes
Right: Students are instructed in the use of the power supplies and gel boxes