SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - When students from Ms. Amber Lawson's Salisbury High School AP biology class visited the Catawba College Biology Department, their task was to solve a whodunit mystery through molecular techniques.
Lawson's students conducted an experiment in Catawba's Molecular Laboratory with Dr. Carmony Hartwig, an assistant professor of biology, and biochemistry students from Catawba that used DNA fingerprinting methodologies to figure out who committed the crime. DNA fingerprinting involves taking all of an organism's DNA and subjecting it to a technique that amplifies short, repeated DNA sequences found throughout the individual organism's genome – this reveals a pattern of bands when separated out on an agarose gel. Each pattern is unique to the individual, like a fingerprint, and can therefore be used for identification or paternity testing.
In this whodunit exercise, students practiced their CSI skills, learning how to properly use research-grade pipettes and load agarose gels with simulated samples containing DNA collected from the crime scene, the victim, and two suspects to determine which DNA fragmentation pattern found in the evidence matched up with which of the suspected culprits.
During their visit, students explored Catawba' s Molecular and Microscopy laboratories in the heart of the Shuford Science building, and viewed samples of tissue stained with fluorescent dyes, allowing them to see various cellular structures differentially. The Salisbury HS students heard from several Biology and Chemistry students in the Catawba College Sciences including Elizabeth Bickenbach, Lee Brackman, Madison Moore, Devan Shell and Wyatt Zander, regarding the various exciting and collaborative research projects that they are involved in, spanning topics such as nanoparticles, antimalarial drugs, natural plant bioactive compounds, and microbes.
Biology major Lee Brackman showcased his research on yeast isolation and barcoding on the compound microscope, showing the Salisbury High students samples he had harvested from yeast media plates treated with various antibiotics.
As the bright, fluorescently-stained DNA bands, or fingerprints, from the crime scene samples came into focus on the gel imager, the students gathered as the truth was revealed; their results indicated that they should arrest Suspect 1.