University of Pittsburgh
June 24, 2002

Local Teachers Selected for Science Workshop at Pitt Through June 28 DNA Fingerprinting, Genome Project, Genetic Engineering Featured

Contact:  412-624-4147

June 25, 2002

PITTSBURGH—DNA fingerprinting has revolutionized our legal system like no other development in history. Not only has DNA evidence been used to convict many criminals, but its use has freed innocents, including some on death row, causing public officials to rethink the death penalty itself.

Soon, understanding this revolutionary scientific breakthrough will be a snap for a group of local science teachers: They will attend a DNA Techniques Workshop through June 28 in the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Biological Sciences. Classes will focus on the latest methods for studying DNA, the molecule that encodes the keys to all living things, as well as the Human Genome Project, genetic engineering, and cloning.

Much of the progress made by scientists in understanding our biological world can be chalked up to advances in DNA research. The workshop focuses on information teachers can take back to the classroom to keep their students current in this rapidly changing field.

Although the workshop's experiments are serious business, the curriculum does not completely exclude fun. Teachers will take a personal excursion into the science of DNA fingerprinting by scrutinizing the DNA patterns prepared from their own cheek cells. They'll also make a new bacterial hybrid by combining E. coli with the Green Fluorescent Protein DNA normally found in jellyfish.

"If this sounds like preparation for launching an attack by some laboratory-produced, creeping shiny green slime, there is no need to worry," said Cheryl Riccobelli, workshop coordinator. "This strain of E. coli is harmless, and last year's participants gave the experiment glowing reviews."

Ultimately, all efforts are geared to transferring teachers' newly acquired skills to their students. After completing the workshop, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, educators are encouraged to borrow kits with all the necessary materials to recreate the workshop experiments so their pupils can produce their own shining glimmering E. coli next fall.