image Pitt Researcher Dr. David Boone works with BPHS biology students on a DNA lab experiment.
Pitt Researcher Dr. David Boone works with BPHS biology students on a DNA lab experiment.

More than 420 Bethel Park High School students had the opportunity to participate in a four-day lab with researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, learning about careers and techniques in the STEM field and getting the opportunity to work alongside professional researchers. Students spent three days analyzing the DNA in their favorite snack foods to uncover which foods contained genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They worked in small groups to grind up the foods and use a chemical to extract the DNA, which Pitt researchers took back to their laboratory to run through a thermocycler to facilitate the DNA replication process. Lastly, the students inserted their DNA samples into a gel and then separated the DNA by sequence through a process called electrophoresis, in which an electrical current runs through the gel. After electrophoresis, students dyed and dried their gels and used a light table to view the DNA sequences to determine if GMOs were present. It is the third year that Bethel Park biology students have participated with Pitt researchers on multi-day labs. “Working on this lab feels like the real deal,” explained senior Joe Mueser. Leading the project from the University of Pittsburgh was Dr. David Boone, who worked with students from regular, AP and honors biology classes.