Genetech: Technology in the Study of Life Science

26 May 2016

Selected Senior students from Year 7 and 8 were asked to attend a special program at GTAC which would not only be a fantastic learning experience, but extend their young, bright minds. Unfortunately, only a maximum of 10 students were permitted to attend but what a wonderful opportunity for those selected and completely free of charge!

So what did our students actually do at GTAC? What you will soon find out is mind-blowing! Our junior secondary school students have participated in numerous, secondary-tertiary level experimental exercises, which all employ advanced techniques and skills. Not surprisingly, they did a fantastic job in all lab activities and contributed to many student discussions with accurate answers! Congratulations to Clarissa (Year 7A) for winning the first ‘I got GTAC’ked!’ badge out of all the students who were there.

Technology Shows Us the Whey In Workshop 1, students were exposed to how scientists analyse milk to improve dairy herds. They used a range of scientific technologies to analyse nutrients in milk, including sugars and whey protein. They began by separating curds and whey via acid treatment and centrifugation! After a minute of spinning, they collected the whey proteins and sugars, and used column chromatography to separate the whey protein from the sugars. Drop by drop, students slowly collected whey protein from which they then used spectrophotometry to measure the amount of whey protein from each milk sample. They obtained data which showed the amount of absorbed light and eluded to the amount of whey protein present. A histogram of their results was generated and from this, they came to their own conclusion about which cow they would choose for selective breeding. In this workshop, students gained confidence in lab skills such as the use of micropipettes and data collection. It was great to see such young and enthusiastic students examine and apply biochemical technologies!

The DNA Technologies in Genetic Testing In Workshop 2, students were exposed to the genetics of Achondroplasia (dwarfism). They learnt about mutations in DNA that can affect bone growth. Students then performed a genetic test for Achondroplasia to determine if any individuals have inherited a copy of the mutant “A” allele. In this test, they performed a restriction enzyme digest, which cut up their DNA samples at a specific site along the length of the DNA. Following this process, they loaded their samples into the wells of a gel, in order to separate the fragments by size. They analysed an image of their results and determined the genotype and phenotype of each individual. In fact, students concluded that the ‘unborn child’ would not have Achondroplasia, after completing a Punnet square!! What an amazing learning experience at this workshop!

Focus on Research Microscopy Just when we thought that the fun might subside, boy were we wrong! In the final workshop, students used microscope technology to investigate scientific problems. They examined microbial blooms and worked to identify microbial bloom ‘suspects’ using compound light microscopes. Students also observed damaged beta cells in mice pancreatic tissue samples, which helped identify diabetic mice! They also explored blood cells and the effect of sickle cell anaemia on cell shape. Students even considered mosquito identification using dissecting microscopes!

The students selected for this rare opportunity were:

  • Clarissa Indranada (7A)

  • Safiyyah Moeladawilah (7A)

  • Yusuf Brookman (7B)

  • Balaj Elahi (7B)

  • Aishah Arain (8A)

  • Hooda M. Emin (8A)

  • Nadia Zermane (8A)

  • Ibrahim Elayoubi (8B)

  • Jameel Mohammad (8B)

They say that ‘time flies when you’re having fun.’ Well, I can tell you that time really FLEW today! All students were engaged, enthusiastic and extremely happy to be at GTAC. In fact, here is what a few of them have had to say.

Student Reflections

Hooda M.Emin, Year 8A: “I was expecting it to be fun but I didn't know it was going to be this much fun! I learnt so many things like how to tell which cow milk has more proteins, how to use different types of microscopes, how to use a weird looking pipette and how DNA works. My favourite workshop out of the three was the DNA one. It was so interesting and unique because firstly I love using the pipette and secondly we got to see cool machines in action that give you results in an interesting way. I met new people there that were really smart and nice (mashallah). It was way better than doing normal school work. Even the journey was fun!”

Nadia Zermane, Year 8A: “This was a great learning opportunity for me because I love Science and one day I want to pursue a career in Science. This excursion was really fun as I was able to use cool technology. There were so many things that I learnt which I had never even thought about before. I learnt about DNA and a bit about how to test a person’s DNA to see if they had a specific disease. I had a look at river water under a microscope only to find that there were all kinds of small microorganisms that I never knew existed in the water. There were these green beads stuck together that looked like a green pearl necklace in the water called Anabaena. It was a really amazing experience and it makes me want to know more in Science.”

Aishah Arain, Year 8A: “The excursion to GTAC was an exciting experience, learning about new things that I had no clue even existed. I learnt about how to measure the amount of whey in a cow, achondroplasia and its effects, and about type 1 diabetes. My favourite workshop was workshop 3, where we got to look through microscopes, and see things that live in water. This truly was an exciting excursion, and it would be amazing if we could do it again.”

Clarissa Indranada, Year 7A: “The trip to GTAC turned out to be very fun. I had imagined the trip to fun but the technology involved made it very fascinating. This was all new to most of us because we had never used any of the technology at GTAC. Making students use technology and perform hands-on activities made it easy to remember. The gel was fun to watch as DNA moved through and it showed us how people were affected with achondroplasia (the retard of bone growth due to a mutation). When we used microscopes to look at cells and insects, I was very fascinated as I had never seen things so close up. Looking at the whey proteins in cows was also very fun. Looking at how samples from a cow can change colour just from pouring in through some substances using a retort stand was really cool. All in all, I really enjoyed the trip to GTAC and I think everyone else did as well.”