A group of sixth-graders from Detroit’s University Preparatory Academy departed from the usual course of science textbooks and frog dissection to get a glimpse of the wonders of science from Wayne State University researchers who work with it every day.
Lawrence Grossman, PhD, is one of many scientists at WSU’s Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics (CMMG) who introduced the students to concepts that go far beyond normal middle school curriculum.
“Often, it’s hard to convey through the traditional schoolroom learning the dynamic nature of science. What we’re trying to do here is inspire these children to develop the aptitude that they’ve already shown and encourage them to investigate the world around them,” says Dr. Grossman, CMMG associate director and faculty member. “Genes play the critical role in many, if not most chronic diseases. Understanding heredity and how traits are encoded in DNA is critical to increasing the community’s knowledge of what causes genetic diseases and how these conditions are passed on to the next generation.”
Participating students will meet at the CMMG for five half-day sessions, during which they will have hands-on opportunities to experience scientific research.
Using experiments that have already been prepped by WSU lab staffs, the students will harvest DNA from bacteria and learn to identify particular fragments of DNA. These fragments may make up a certain gene, which they then can confirm by comparing its length to other known DNA fragments. This process is similar to RFLP analysis, the same basic procedure used by physicians to establish paternity and in forensics labs to identify perpetrators of violent crime.