Students perform DNA forensics using food coloring to enhance their understanding of DNA fingerprinting, restriction enzymes, genotyping and DNA gel electrophoresis. They place small drops of different food coloring ("water-based paint") on strips of filter paper and then place one paper strip end in water. As water travels along the paper strips, students observe the pigments that compose the paint decompose into their color components. This is an example of the chromatography concept applied to DNA forensics, with the pigments in the paint that define the color being analogous to DNA fragments of different lengths.
Students are introduced to genetic techniques such as DNA electrophoresis and imaging technologies used for molecular and DNA structure visualization. In the field of molecular biology and genetics, biomedical engineering plays an increasing role in the development of new medical treatments and discoveries. Engineering applications of nanotechnology such as lab-on-a-chip and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) microarrays are used to study the human genome and decode the complex interactions involved in genetic processes.
Students are introduced to the latest imaging methods used to visualize molecular structures and the method of electrophoresis that is used to identify and compare genetic code (DNA). Students should already have basic knowledge of genetics, DNA (DNA structure, nucleotide bases), proteins and enzymes. The lesson begins with a discussion to motivate the need for imaging techniques and DNA analysis, which prepares students to participate in the associated two-part activity: 1) students each choose an imaging method to research (from a provided list of molecular imaging methods), 2) they research basic information about electrophoresis.
Students conduct their own research to discover and understand the methods designed by engineers and used by scientists to analyze or validate the molecular structure of DNA, proteins and enzymes, as well as basic information about gel electrophoresis and DNA identification. In this computer-based activity, students investigate particular molecular imaging technologies, such as x-ray, atomic force microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and create short PowerPoint presentations that address key points. The presentations include their own explanations of the difference between molecular imaging and gel electrophoresis.
The discovery of restriction enzymes and their applications in DNA analysis has proven to be essential for biologists and chemists. This lesson focuses on restriction enzymes and their applications to DNA analysis and DNA fingerprinting. Use this lesson and its associated activity in conjunction with biology lessons on DNA analysis and DNA replication.
Students experience civil and environmental engineering by planning a housing development in an existing biome, while also protecting the native species that live there. They conduct research, draw plans, make brochures and give presentations, with each team having a member serving as a project manager, civil engineer, environmental engineer and graphic designer. The best designs creatively balance the needs and resources necessary to support both the native species and human infrastructure.