Jolie Stepaniak, Paul Root, Henry Ford Community College

Teaching Biotechnology Through Real-world Projects: Species Identification Through DNA Analysis

Students in BIO 261: Nucleic Acids, a biotechnology course, had a unique final exam in which they were charged with identifying an organism using just its DNA. Each student received a swab of cells from an unknown organism, extracted DNA from the cells, and designed and executed an experiment to determine the species of the organism from which the cells had come. The students used polymerase chain reaction – the same process that forensic DNA labs use – to find the answer. This experiment not only tested the students’ experimental design and laboratory skills, but provided them with a fun and exciting real-world challenge.

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