The miniPCR team is just back from an inspiring week of science education in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We were generously invited by BABEC, the Bay Area Biotechnology Education Consortium, a regional network of local science education organizations based in the Northern California Bay Area. BABEC serves close to 400 teachers in over 200 schools, with more than 45,000 student interactions. They do this through a vibrant and inspiring team led by Johanna Anton.
Our first stop was the 2014 Bio-Link Summer Fellows Forum, which took place at the UC Berkeley Clark Kerr Campus. Bio-Link enhances biotechnology education programs by providing cutting edge professional development for instructors, curriculum, technologies, and by sharing information. This year’s National Fellows meeting agenda included both technology-based seminars as well as hands-on biotechnology sessions, blending theory and practice to help boost biotech education. Together with BABEC we ran the miniPCR Food Safety workshop to help illustrate uses for biotechnology in public health and in the food industry, through DNA amplification and molecular genetic analysis of food-borne pathogens. Biotech instructors who joined the session worked hands-on with miniPCR, and seemed to find the Food Safety application a relevant teaching example that they can now bring back to their Colleges.
We also introduced PCR and its use in Food Safety to a group of High School science teachers who joined BABEC for a hands-on biotech workshop at Skyline College. Teachers worked through a morning of molecular biology experiments including DNA amplification by PCR, restriction digest analysis, and gel electrophoresis to help trace the origin of “contaminated” ground beef samples tainting the food supply chain with (simulated) E.coli O157:H7. Teachers were engaged, experimentally successful (see pictures below), and many commented on the usefulness of introducing their students to “real-world biotechnology applications”.
This was a phenomenal trip which allowed us to interact and exchange perspectives with tens of educators not just in the San Francisco Area but also nationally. We got to appreciate firsthand the value that small, portable, and affordable PCR machines can have in science education and outreach, and to get direct feedback from users.
We have much to be grateful for and a long list of people to thank, especially BABEC’s president Johanna Anton, Dr. Elaine Johnson from Bio-Link, and Prof. Nick Kapp and Dean Ray Hernandez from Skyline College. Huge thanks and kudos to the educators who joined our workshops and shared their experiences and feedback — your support is immensely important to us. Finally, we are grateful to our education outreach partners MassBioEd and New England Biolabs for reagents support.
Please browse some pictures below showing Bio-Link fellows and Skyline workshop participants in action.