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AP students seek opportunities at Clayton State

AP biology students took a field trip to Clayton State University to perform a DNA analysis lab.

March 8, 2017

Taylor Watkins
Madeline Crawford and Taylor Johnson load the PCR machine for their group. This allowed the DNA to replicate.

On Tuesday, students in Dr. Katrina Pandya’s AP biology class was given the opportunity to go to Clayton State to perform a lab in the university’s facilities.

The students spent the day completing a lab in which they were able to physically look at their genotype and match it to their phenotype for the ability to taste the chemical PTC which is either very bitter or tasteless. The lab was led by Dr. Rich Singiser who is the associate professor of chemistry at Clayton State University.

“They looked at a bunch of different types of assays including PCR, restriction enzyme digests and gel electrophoresis,” Dr. Singiser said.

Taylor Watkins
Drew Gebhardt adds the ethidium bromide to an agarose solution. This was made into the gel for the gel electrophoresis.

So far, Dr. Pandya has taken four AP biology classes to Clayton State for this lab. She met Dr. Singiser at a Henry County science fair where they exchanged cards and eventually they set up the first lab. Both teachers enjoy the experience and as the years go on they see the results.

“We have the time to do a complicated lab very well, and you guys have enough time to reflect on it to totally understand it in detail and leave with something in your mind that says this is how this works, this is why I did this, this is what happens next, and I think that’s phenomenal because there are no broken pieces like ‘I don’t really get this step’ when you leave,” Dr. Pandya said.

An opportunity like this is not very common. Clayton State has only had one other school come and do this lab this year. However, the chemistry department also sponsors Forest Park’s AP chemistry class.

Taylor Watkins
Landon Dodson and Alex Johnson add DNA samples to the wells in the gel. This was a crucial part of the experiment.

“It’s hardĀ to make all the arrangements work, so between school schedules and our school schedules and our teaching schedules, trying to get everything matched up. We usually only get it to work once or twice a year,” Dr. Singiser said.

Dr. Singiser enjoys showing students the chances they could have if they continued learning about science in college.

“If we can get them excited about science, then that might mean we get more students, or we get more scientists,” he said.

For most students in high school, this is the only chance for them to work with sophisticated equipment that colleges have.

“What I hear from students, even if they had done this as 10th graders, when they graduate is this is best lab experience they’ve ever had. They think it’s phenomenal. It gets them excited about going into science, about working in a lab,” Dr. Pandya said.

Taylor Watkins
Tori Choate and Amanda Chambers take their gel out of the box that administered the electric current. The current caused the DNA to move down the gel.

Also, the students were able to reap the benefits of being in the lab with an actual college professor.

“Dr. Singiser is an amazing professor in the lab…He’s very clear, and he’s very calm, and he believes in learning from error and letting you think processes through,” Dr. Pandya said. I think just seeing someone demonstrate a lab once a year correctly and beautifully for me it’s just wonderful and for you, you know what the expectations are when you go to college,” Dr. Pandya said.

Labs in college usually take place in a three hour block, but in high school, students only get a 50 minute class period to finish a lab unless the teacher decides to make the lab go on for another day.

“I think just seeing someone demonstrate a lab once a year correctly and beautifully for me it’s just wonderful and for you, you know what the expectations are when you go to college,” Dr. Pandya said.

For junior Joseph Boltz, the trip really helped him understand labs.

Taylor Watkins
The gel electrophoresis is put on a black light. This allowed some students to see their DNA clearly.

“In class, it is so rushed that I didn’t like the labs whatsoever, and I got nearly nothing out of it. With this being so thorough I’m actually learning a lot more than I would in a classroom setting, so it’s a lot more worthwhile,” he said.

The college does offer dual enrollment opportunitiesĀ that attract many high school students in surrounding area. Dr. Singiser emphasizes that though Clayton State might not have the largest research department, smaller class sizes allow students to really work with and know their professors.

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