Pitt DNA workshop leaves a mark on students
Thanks to DNA tests they conducted, nearly three dozen advanced placement biology students from Mars Area High School could soon learn if they're distantly related to each other.
“This really gives us a better understanding what it would be like to work in this field,” said Jimmy Ronczka, 16, of Middlesex, a junior.
The 32 juniors and seniors had to write essays to earn a spot among 90 biology students to take the trip from Butler County on Tuesday to two laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh's Langley Hall. There they used equipment and ran tests that students usually don't get to do until they are juniors in college.
Students took cheek swabs to obtain DNA samples and then ran them through a battery of tests to amplify the DNA through a polymerase chain reaction, which helps in forensic science, paternity testing, disease testing and other scientific methods. In essence, students will use the results to identify their own genetic fingerprint.
“This isn't just memorization,” said biology teacher Bill Wesley. “This is the real deal.”
A portion of a multimillion dollar grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, administered by the Pitt Bio Outreach program, paid for the program. Pitt Bio Outreach's goal is to incorporate new science techniques into area classrooms.
“They're learning a lot about the forensic process,” said Becky Gonda, an outreach coordinator through the university's department of biology sciences. “They're seeing how what they've learned in class can apply to laboratory techniques,” including the ability to replicate DNA.
Wesley said the science of DNA has grown in the last 20 or 30 years, and where once there were doubts, the techniques students learned showed how far the scientific testing developed.
“It's like a fingerprint. If it's 100 percent certain, then it's you,” Wesley said. “You can't put any doubt on it.”
Students said there were no surprises as to how the tests were conducted, since they've been learning about testing in their high school classes. They added they were grateful for the opportunity for a few hours of hands-on testing and experience that few high school students get to experience.
“I kind of want to learn what scientists actually could do in the workforce,” said junior Brett Kloc, 16, of Adams, who is interested in chemistry or biology. “What could I actually do in real life?”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Woman charged with leaving young boys in hot car at Zelienople bar
- Residents offer input on direction of Cranberry
- Butler County continues to experience population growth
- St. Kilian parishioners await new church
- Government contractor FCi Federal expands into Butler
- Cranberry woman robbed at gunpoint at apartment complex
- Oxford filing seeks to overturn award of VA project to Cambridge
- Butler Township considers taking over bar noise enforcement
- Evans City looks to pool resources for repairs
- Butler man’s death ruled an accident