I’m in Polk County, North Carolina this week to visit the biotechnology class taught by Jennifer Allsbrook at Polk County High School. My visit is a follow-up to the mentoring I’ve done with Jennifer the past couple of summers as she has learned PCR in my lab at Ohio State University. She came to OSU specifically to learn about Inter-simple sequence repeat markers, aka ISSRs. This is a technique that can easily transfer to the high school biology classroom with the proper equipment for extracting DNA, doing PCR, and running and imaging gels. To set up her classroom Jennifer obtained some small grants to purchase equipment and supplies.
I came to the “other” Columbus (Polk County High School is in Columbus, NC) to help with the optimization steps for the PCRs the students have just started to do. Jennifer has eight students in her biotechnology class, and all are highly motivated to succeed. Here are some images from today’s session:
In the foreground are the gel images from their first PCRs, using three different primers. There are bands present, but the reactions need to be optimized to bring out the individual bands and eliminate the non-specific priming.
The students have an hour and a half to get everything done each class period. Jennifer told me that she has to be very creative about finding good stopping points when an experiment is likely to take longer than the class period.
There was a flurry of activity at the end of the class period, which is the last one of the day. Students need to rush off to catch their bus or a ride home. Jennifer finishes the set-up and gets the reactions onto the thermocycler, then tidies up the classroom for the next day. Her son meets her after school, and I sure hope they have some relaxation scheduled for the evening. I have great admiration for what Jennifer is accomplishing here in rural North Carolina.