Talawanda Students Win Medal for Genetic Barcoding Project

Added by Andy Hofmann on May 6, 2013. · No Comments · Share this Post

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IMG_0632Recently, through Butler Tech, Talawanda students Dillon Lubbers and Nathan Nelson won 1st place in the Science division of a SkillsUSA state competition for their genetics project, “DNA Barcoding 101– Identifying our Fall Flora.”

“The way it works is, there’s a decline in bioinformatics that’s not keeping up with newly discovered species,” Nelson said, explaining the significance of their work. “This brand new technique, anyone can do it. Heck, we’re high schoolers.”

When encountering the pair for the first time, a sense of reserved excitement for their work was distinctly palpable, quick to mention concepts and not afraid to explain the science behind their success.

Bioinformatics is, according to bioplanet.com, the application of computer technology to the management of biological information. DNA Barcoding, a relatively recent development in the field, helps users identify unknown species through a shorthand of its genetic code.

First, plants from the region were collected without identification. The individual samples were ground up so that the genetic code was exposed. The DNA is then isolated, meaning that a short section of the code is taken to be used further.

After, through a process known as a polymerase chain reaction (or PCR), the DNA is replicated over and over until enough DNA material has been gained. This DNA is then put through Aagaros Gel Electrophoresis, a process that allows observers to know PCR worked and visualises the DNA.

The gene samples are then sequenced through a company known and Genewiz and a program called “DNA Subway” is used to translate the genes into barcode format. The results are then viewed and compared, allowing the team to determine the genetic relationships between various plants and eventually classify them.

The results were then presented by Lubbers and Nelson for SkillsUSA, a national coalition of tech prep educational fields that holds various competitions and conferences. They received first place at the state competition, and will continue on to present at the national conference in Kansas City on June 23-29.

When asked why they won, Nelson said, “We did the most homework and research, with the most unique science.”

“We’ve been working on this for most of our high school Careers,” Lubbers added, nodding. “We worked really hard on this.”