Extracting DNA - back to school in Histon

Extracting DNA - back to school in Histon

I was pleased to help with the Science Day at Histon & Impington Junior School because it’s the school I went to. I work in the Epigenetics research programme at the Babraham Institute so the workshop we ran at the school – DNA extraction – is very relevant to my research. Four of us went into the school – it’s better to have some colleagues for a bit of moral support!

Most of the outreach we do at primary schools consists of a short presentation (with lots of questions for the students) followed by a hands-on activity. The presentation we use is straight-forward and I added a couple of slides to illustrate my work on how DNA is arranged around histones in the nucleus of the cell. The hands-on activity was a DNA extraction protocol, which though simple, is similar to a technique we use in the lab. I’ve done the activity before with onions, but this time arranged to use strawberries and kiwi fruit as more pleasant-smelling alternative.

We ran the presentation and activity three times, for about 30 students each time. The protocol which almost always works if the instructions are followed properly, requires patience and a steady hand. The only hazardous part is using ice-cold alcohol to condense and visualise the DNA, but with careful instructions, supervision and gloves the students managed very well.

I enjoy working with students, especially in my old primary school. Their curiosity and eagerness to learn is very refreshing and helps me to think about how I explain my work to non-scientists. I’ll shortly be leaving the Babraham Institute, to do a PhD in Oxford but I’ll be looking out for new opportunities to continue participating in outreach activities there.

If you want to hear more from Lucy, she recently participated in our ‘Discover a Career in Science’ project, you can watch her video here: www.babraham.ac.uk/get-involved/discover-a-career-in-science