A strong contingent from the Knight group (Justin, Andrew, Alice, Ola, Harindra, Giuseppe and Julie) went to Abingdon School to run a DNA manipulation workshop, based on identifying and using DNA sequence variants, as part of the Abingdon Science Partnership. Students from four schools (Carterton Community College, Europa School, Sir William Borlase's Grammar Schooland John Mason School) came together to learn how to work with DNA and small volumes. They carried out a PCR reaction which produced a product, 2,000 bases long, which was subsequently manipulated with molecular scissors (restriction enzymes) that cut the product into two smaller fragments, but only if a certain variant in the DNA was present at the 300th base. Each group loaded their own sample into a gel electrophoresis system and ten minutes later they could see if the DNA was cut into 300 base and 1700 base fragments, and all of them successfully confirmed that the variant was present. The practical part was interspersed with a talk on genome editing with CRISP-R and several career path talks. In the afternoon we played a stimulating “whispering game” which showed how we can use the presence of variants in bioinformatics. As a six word message spreads through a group it gets corrupted (mutated) and starts to gather variants in the message. By recording the changes in the message as it spreads through the group, the students reconstructed how the message was disseminated. In genetics we can similarly use the variants a pathogen gains in its genome as it replicates, to work out how an infectious disease spreads through a population. The Knight group really enjoyed the day out with many interesting questions and discussions about our work with the students.
DNA Manipulation Workshop at Abingdon School
5 October 2018