New Community Laboratory Makes a Connection between Duquesne, Urban Learners

Pittsburgh’s first community biotechnology laboratory opens this December thanks to the partnership between Duquesne University and Urban Innovation21.

Andre’ Samuel, a recent Ph.D. graduate in biological sciences, will direct this new initiative which will foster local education and innovation with a focus on urban learners. The community laboratory will provide greater access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM fields).

At its foundation, the community laboratory directs attention towards embracing personal interests and societal concerns, as well as fostering relationships between educators and the community. True collaboration with creativity and effectiveness can be achieved with a reach well beyond the laboratory setting.

Community laboratory participants will include middle school through high school aged students and adult learners. One to two-hour-long learning modules will be available at partner schools within the Pittsburgh area, as well as directly at the community laboratory.

Experiments will teach students basic principles and develop marketable skills, such as harvesting and transforming DNA. For example, a DNA fingerprinting module will have learners isolate their own DNA, use digestive enzymes to break it up, run it on gel, and create t-shirts with their DNA profile. A module on developing protein structures will provide a tutorial on proteins, such as what they are made of, structures, and amino acids, as well as protein folding, solving protein structures, and rearranging chains and subunits. Another module may involve the use of frog embryos to examine the effects of harmful agents such as nicotine and ethanol on embryo development. By providing hand-on experiences to students it will nurture their interests while promoting diversity in the STEM fields.

Technology will stimulate students' minds while captivating their interests with the iPad/iPhone being used to disperse literature and module information. In addition, opportunities for field trips to biomedical and biotechnology companies and laboratories will also be provided. Dr. Alan Seadler, associate academic vice president for research and business at Duquesne concludes, "We are really excited about the way that the sciences, in particularly biotechnology, can connect with the community through this laboratory."

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