CULLOWHEE - The N.C. Biotechnology Center has awarded a grant of nearly $18,000 to Western Carolina University for a summer workshop designed to give N.C. science teachers valuable hands-on experience in DNA sequencing that they can take back to their classrooms across the state.

The intensive five-day workshop is set for June 21-25, and it is open to 20 teachers who will learn gene sequencing fundamentals before moving on to “loads of hands-on practice,” said Wes Bonds, an assistant professor of chemistry who is leading Western’s biotechnology efforts.

“Teachers will learn to pour sequencing gels, run the sequencing reactions, create their own strands of DNA for sequencing, run their own gels and interpret the results,” said Bonds. “We will look hard at how to fit the experiment into various classroom settings. They also will learn how to prepare samples for submission to DNA sequencing core facilities.”

Joining Bonds will be two of the nation’s top sequencing instructors who have worked with thousands of high school students and teachers. Sister Mary Jane Paolella, high school biology teacher at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, Conn., garnered national attention when she installed one of the first automated gene sequencers in a high school setting. Kristi Martinez, is director of the StarNet Program in the Department of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington, which is the oldest gene sequencing outreach activity for secondary students.

Bonds, who spent 11 years working on the Humane Genome Project at Yale University School of Medicine before joining the faculty at Western, travels frequently throughout North Carolina to lead high school students in sequencing a mutation of the human gene that has been linked to a predisposition to nicotine addiction.

The high school outreach activities by Bonds and the June 21-25 workshop are part of Western’s on-going efforts to encourage interested students to consider possible post-secondary study and careers in the emerging fields of biotechnology and bioinformatics, which many experts have called “the next wave” in the world of science.

“This workshop is going to be intensive,” Bonds said. “We will work day and night. But what fun it is going to be. Just think of the opportunities these teachers are going to put into the hands of their students when they can teach them to take an unknown strand of DNA and determine its code. There are literally billions of unsequenced genes out there for kids to discover.”

For more information about biotechnology activities at Western Carolina University, contact Wes Bonds at (828) 227-3681. Teachers interested in registering for the workshop at Western or any of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s summer programs should click on the Web at www.ncbiotech.org/summerworkshops/

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Last modified: Thursday, April 8, 2004
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