Heady science lessons are common for freshmen at Cooper High School in Abilene, Texas, when they enroll in science teacher Beth Green's classes.
Introducing students to gel electrophoresis -- which according to the students' worksheet is a basic biotechnology technique that separates macromolecules according to their charge and size -- was on the plate one afternoon recently.
The procedure frequently is used to analyze and manipulate DNA and protein samples.
Such methods reflect what police investigators do -- in real life and on prime-time TV.
"It was really an interesting experience to learn how DNA is extracted in an experiment and to mess with different gels and what an electrical current can do," student Vicente Arrazola said. "It's really cool that we're doing what the professionals do to catch people that did crimes. I'm really glad we got to learn this today. It was really exciting."
Chachiee Aladdin jokingly told one of her classmates that the procedure reminded her of what she had to do in a scary movie scenario.
"Like when the zombies come, you have to inject them," Chachiee said, as she laughed.
Green said students took the gel samples and added electricity to determine whether they had a positive or negative charge.
"In a crime lab, you take samples found at the scene of a crime and run the suspects' DNA through and compare it to the DNA found at the crime scene," Green said. "If it matches, there's a good chance that the suspect committed the crime."
Although the gel-electrophoresis experiment comes across as complicated, Chachiee said Green makes it manageable.
"As long as you know what you're doing, it's pretty easy," Chachiee said. "(Green) is one of the best science teachers here and is very helpful."
Student Tiara Jones said she liked "messing with the gels and putting color into it."
"It was something different," Tiara said.
Green said she gave the students the gel electrophoresis experiment to pique their interest.
"We'll get into what DNA does, but this kind of gets them hooked into the topic," Green said. "It's interesting and more real. Before Christmas, we did an experiment where they extracted DNA from a strawberry."
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