“I had never used a micropipette before.” One Student’s Biotech Quest.miniPCR Team
Guest blog post by Carter Zivin, high school senior in Seattle.
“Science and everyday life cannot and should not be separated” – Rosalind Franklin
Are you a high school student with an interest in science? Are you driving your parents, friends, and pets crazy with random questions about squid evolution or whatever the latest CRISPR development is? Well, you’ve come to the right place!
When I first went into quarantine, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t have the structure of school anymore, and senioritis was beginning to creep up on me. I had to somehow fill my day in a way that would intrigue and engage me, and find work that was meaningful and would keep me busy. I knew that I was interested in science. I like to research things in my free time and dive into different topics, anything from astronomy to arachnids (if my day is really crazy, I’ll think about spiders in spacesuits, but I’m getting ahead of myself).
I had never used a micropipette before, let alone performed PCR. I used the free online miniPCR resources and taught myself to pipette and perform PCR and gel electrophoresis. I completed eight labs in two weeks, and in the process, taught myself about topics including cell-free systems, evolution, and forensic analysis.
I hadn’t had much opportunity to dive into molecular biology in school, but I knew it was a topic that I was interested in learning more about. I emailed my former biology teacher, who now works at miniPCR bio, about the possibility of a senior project. She was able to lend me equipment and sent me materials to complete eight labs. Besides that, all the work was on me. And I had a lot of fun doing it!
I had never used a micropipette before, let alone performed PCR. I used the free online miniPCR resources and taught myself to pipette and perform PCR and gel electrophoresis. I completed eight labs in two weeks, and in the process, taught myself about topics including cell-free systems, evolution, and forensic analysis. The cherry on top was when I got to enjoy the worried looks from my parents when I told them I was solving a murder in the kitchen and proceeded to pull a styrofoam box with test tubes from the freezer.
Each of the labs comes with a story, and an overarching concept taught through the lab work. Out of the eight labs I did, my favorite was Wrongfully Convicted. In Wrongfully Convicted, you learn about forensic analysis and try to prove that a suspect was well- wrongfully convicted for a crime. Under the premise that a convict has asked for analysis of DNA evidence, you use gel electrophoresis to see if the evidence supports the conviction. My favorite part was reading about how forensic analysis actually worked and how hard it is to analyze and compare specific pieces of DNA from one person to another.
Working with miniPCR bio was an amazing learning opportunity. I got to use staple lab equipment, such as micropipettes and a gel electrophoresis system, in my own home. I was not only able to get a better gauge on my personal interests in lab work, but also build skills that would be valuable in an undergraduate setting or further.
~ Carter Zivin