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Jennifer “Jenny” McCall

Use a miniPCR thermal cycler and gel electrophoresis equipment to determine how DNA can determine which pathogenic bacteria cause a food borne illness

2023 STEM Scholar
Lexington, KY Winburn Middle School

Jenny’s Big Idea: 

Students will ask questions about how DNA can be used to determine what pathogenic bacteria are causing a food borne illness. Students will plan and carry out the DNA analysis with PCR, restriction digest, and gel electrophoresis.  Students will analyze the data to precisely conclude which food is the pathogen source.

Objectives include:

  • Understanding food safety;
  • Demonstrating modern methods (molecular methods based on genetic sequences) to detect harmful microbes in our environment;
  • Demonstrating micropipetting skills;
  • Learning to use the Polymerase Chain Reaction a targeted specific gene fragment is amplified through many copies being produced (3 steps: denaturation, annealing, extension);
  • Identifying how PCR applications transform the world through molecular diagnostics, personalized medicine, consumer genomics, food and agriculture, human evolution, and forensics;
  • Learning to apply the restriction digest enzyme to effectively act as “molecular scissors” regarding the targeted gene fragment;
  • Carrying out a gel electrophoresis experiment to visibly see the results and analyze the data to conclude what food contains the pathogenic bacteria;
  • Designing an experiment proposal to study genes in space on the ISS.

Interesting Fact: 

Jenny is definitely a dog person – her black lab is literally a member of her family.

In her own words: “As students are exposed to DOING science in the classroom, they will increasingly view themselves as scientists.”