Digging In

DOinGG some outreach with NC kids!
by Zachary Brecheisen -- March 28th, 2014

Me thinking through some simple genetics with some NC elementary school kids!

Me thinking through some simple genetics with some NC elementary school kids!

Its been quite a while since my last post. Apologies for that, life swept me away for a while, but, wow, do I have lots to blog about. First, we’ll run through some fun I had a couple months ago volunteering with the Duke Outreach in Genetics and Genomics (DOinGG) group.

Duke Cellular & Molecular Biology (CMB) 1st year PhD student Kyla helping to run the DOinGG booth at the Raleigh Science Olympiad.

Duke Cellular & Molecular Biology (CMB) 1st year PhD student Kyla helping to run the DOinGG booth at the Raleigh Family Science Olympiad.

We had two activities involving concepts and ideas from genetics. The one I was involved with had kids building a baby monster with a mixture of traits that they could identify or link back to the mom or dad monster and utilized copious quantities of play-dough, toothpicks, and cut-outs. It was a great success.

Molly Matty, fearless DOinGG leader helping with a monster mash.

Molly Matty, PhD student in the University Program in Genetics and Genomics (UPGG). The fearless DOinGG leader helping with a monster mash.

Our other activity involved tasting PTC (Phenylthiocarbamide) paper strips to see if a person has the genotype to taste this incredibly bitter flavor. I, fortunately, do not, though every now and then a lucky(????) kid or parent would come by that could and, wow! You could tell when you got a hit! Participants got a candy, either way, after trying and got to learn that genes are coded in our DNA.

My wonderful girlfriend, Victoria Carpenter, 3rd year PhD candidate in both CMB and Molecular Genetics and Mocrobiology (MGM) handing out PTC strips. She can taste them and wans't at all happy when I asked her to taste one again!

My wonderful girlfriend, Victoria Carpenter, handing out PTC strips. She can taste them!

I remember doing things like this as a kid and having a blast learning about science (and fooling around and playing quite a bit). I had no clue just how exhausting it is though! Holy cow, I was beat by the end! The kiddo’s wanted to keep on going and going! All in all, it was a lot of fun and I plan on helping out more in the future.P1030777
p.s. You might wonder why an “environment” student would want to run around with a bunch of geneticists? My undergraduate training was strongly centered around general biology and it is something that I greatly enjoy and appreciate. Further, I don’t like distinctions between/among fields that result in too much isolation. When it really comes down to it, proteins and enzymes coded for in our DNA (and metabolic byproducts) are often how organisms interact biogeochemically with their environment to define their niches and shape their ecosystems!

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