Hands-on life science workshop for high school studentsStudents analyze their own DNA
Sep. 15, 2023
A special one-day hands-on workshop for high school students with an interest in science was held on August 1, 4, and 9. This event has been organized in Kobe since 2003, and this year, a total of 54 students from high schools across Japan participated over the three days. As in previous years, the workshop included a hands-on experimental program, a lecture given by a BDR researcher, and a laboratory visit.
This year’s hands-on experimental program involved students analyzing their own DNA to determine what copy of alleles they carry for a gene encoding alcohol dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), an enzyme involved in breaking down alcohol in the body. They scraped cells from their inner cheeks, and after isolating their DNA from those cells, they analyzed their ALDH2 genes. The students were able to gain a first-hand understanding of how things that were mentioned in their school textbooks, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method and restriction enzymes, were used in genetic analyses. A few of the tasks involved in the protocol appeared to be somewhat challenging for several students, which unfortunately, resulted in a failure to obtain data from their experiments.
For the lecture session, Dr. Wataru Kimura, team leader of the Laboratory for Heart Regeneration, talked about the twists and turns involved in the attempt to regenerate the heart, which is not an easy task to begin with. The students then had the opportunity to visit Dr. Kimura’s laboratory, where student trainee Tai Sada showed them cultured mouse cardiomyocytes that were beating under a microscope. There were several participants who appeared interested in the process of regeneration and actively posed their questions to the researchers.
Many of the students commented that the workshop gave them a bit of insight into the daily life of a scientist and what is involved in research, and wanted to make use of this experience to consider their future career paths. Several of the students appeared to also hit it off with each other and left the workshop happily chatting with their newfound friends.