STEM SUMMER CAMPS FOR 8-12 GRADES ON DNA BIOLOGY AND BIOINFORMATICS
This summer morning basic camp was attended by 14 students from Eugene, Salem, Hillsboro, home schooled/online teaching academies and from the Corvallis area schools. Same camp activities were repeated for the afternoon session attended by 10 students and two science teachers from the David Douglas High School, a targeted school from Portland. The advanced camp was attended by 13 students for the local and regional areas. Students learned and explored the world of modern biology involving the complexities of DNA, proteins, Mendelian genetics, genetic markers and their use in plant forensics (identifying different rice varieties), tropical plant adaptation, honey bee biology, plant and bacterial DNA isolation and preparing it for whole genome sequencing, followed by bioinformatics analysis. Students also transformed a tobacco plant with a foreign reporter gene and visualized their genetically modified (GMO) plants at the end of the camp. The GMO exercise and discussion on pros and cons, contributed to the understanding of the technique and its routine use by the researchers. Through the use of DNA and protein model-building kits, laboratory experiments and computer analyses – participants gained basic understanding of biology, genetics, biotechnology and bioinformatics. The Advanced camp was attended by 13 students, with many of them having attended the previously held basic camp. In the advanced camp, students, learned about the cancer biology, analyzed histological samples from normal and cancer tissues and cultured cells; isolated and sampled different proteins on an electrophoresis gel and assembled and annotated the sequenced bacterial genomes (from basic vamp) leading to analysis on their phylogenetic similarity, thus learning about genetic variation and speciation.
The camp was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards to Pankaj Jaiswal and Jeff Anderson from Department of Botany and USDA-NIFA award to Jeff Chang from the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Sequencing supplies were provided by Illimina Inc. Pankaj Jaiswal’s laboratory organized the event in coordination with Cathy Law, Director of the OSU STEM Academy, with voluntary support provided in the form of instruction and camp activities by the faculty, postdoc scholars and graduate students from the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and Department of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Department of Pharmacy in the College of Pharmacy. Specifically, Faculty (BPP: Jeff Chang, Sushma Naithani, Jeff Anderson, Aaron Liston; HORT: Ramesh Sagili; PHARMACY: Arup Indra and Gitali Ganguli Indra); Faculty Research Assistant (BPP: Justin Preece and HORT: Hannah Lucas); Graduate Students (MCB: Matthew Geniza, Noor Al-Bader, Ed Davis, Sharmeen Chagani; BPP:Kevin Weitemier; PHARMACY: Shan Li, Mai Le and Evan Carpenter); Postdoctoral Scholars (BPP: Parul Gupta, Austin Meier, Alexandra Weisberg and Elizabeth Savory). NSF funds also provided scholarships to needy and minority students in addition to supporting the week long boarding and lodging of the students and teachers from David Douglas High School from Portland. BPP supported extracurricular activities for the Portland School to showcase the OSU campus and student activities. Computer lab access was provided by the department of Horticulture. CGRB provided the sequencing facility, high performance cyber-infrastructure for teaching and tour of their facility. OSU-STEM Academy Director was supported financially for the duration of the camp by the NSF funds. In all 37 students and two teachers participated in the camp. It also provided opportunity for our students, researchers, staff and faculty to contribute to the K-12 STEM outreach program as part of their activities on community outreach, education, learning and skill development, a major goal recognized by the OSU.