Student sleuths unravel secrets of DNA at UA camp

July 30, 2007

By hammersmith

[Source: Tucson Citizen] — Extracting DNA from a banana and collecting fingerprints were part of the fun last week at CSI Camp at the Arizona Cancer Center. The camp offered seventh- and eighth-grade students the opportunity to be part of a team of medical-evidence experts. Campers formed an investigative team and discovered where germs hide and how the environment can damage cells using hands-on, laboratory-based activities.

Teens clad in lab coats were seen swabbing the surfaces of tables, toilets and door handles at the Cancer Center, 1515 N. Campbell Ave., collecting evidence. They extracted DNA by mixing a banana in a blender with water, shampoo and salt. Next they strained the mixture through a coffee filter. A small amount of liquid was mixed with cold rubbing alcohol, causing the DNA to clump so students could examine it. “The camp is designed to expose students to the biomedical field and to get them interested in biomedical research at an early age,” Jesse Martinez, director of research education for the Cancer Center and professor of cell biology and anatomy, said in a news release.

Twenty-six middle school students participated in the weeklong camp. Eleven students received scholarships to attend. At the end of the week, each camper gave a presentation on a different topic. In its second year, the camp is part of University of Arizona’s Arizona Youth University. It is co-sponsored by the Cancer Center, the UA and BIO5 Institute, a scientific collaborative at UA. [Photo: Rene Bracamonte, Tucson Citizen]