The Gene Machine is back on the road.
Students across the state are once again gaining hands-on genetic science experience thanks to genetic education instructors at the Greenwood Genetic Center, who have resumed taking the centre’s mobile labs to schools.
Instructors take the Gene Machine, a custom 41-foot coach equipped with a mobile lab, and the Helix Express, a van that carries supplies that instructors can take to a classroom, to schools across the state. to do genetic labs and introduce students to biotechnology skills such as micropipettage and gel electrophoresis.
Leta Tribble, director of education at the center, said the goal of the outreach is to introduce students to the field of biotechnology and provide them with hands-on experience of the skills used by scientists. Another goal, she said, is to introduce these students to the careers available.
The center serves all students in the state, whether they are in a public school, a private school, or at home. The center has an on-site laboratory classroom in Greenwood.
“We’re really very interested in working with schools that may be in areas of the state that just don’t have the same equipment that we can provide, so we would really like to work with these students in those schools,” Tribble said.
“We just think that all students, regardless of where they live in our state and what opportunities may be available, we would like to present them with the same opportunities as other schools.”
Dillon Gary, senior coordinator and instructor, said the labs allow students to experience things they may not have had before.
He often said that staff interact with students who do not prefer science, but working with instructors presents them with different opportunities and possibilities within science.
Genetics professor Olivia Nail said that students often have a narrow idea of what the field has to offer, such as being a doctor, nurse or engineer. Laboratories introduce them to other fields such as forensic medicine and genetics.
“So we have labs that allow our students to take on these different roles,” Nail said. “So we have a mystery murder where they act as forensic technologists or we have the ‘Be the Geneticist’ lab where they really explore some of the genetic disorders and diagnose a patient.”
Nail was a student in the mobile lab in high school and said that was one of the reasons she decided to major in genetics at college. There are a few other center staff who participated in the mobile lab during school, she said.
“I’ve always liked the genetics units in my biology classes, but it was in my AP Bio class that they came to visit and work with all the equipment and really just simulate what people do in their labs. and learning more and more about the research geneticists are doing, it really kinda kind of boosted my passion for it and it was a really cool experience to say like ‘Oh wow I can do that, that was really fun , I really enjoyed that, ‘”said Nail.
Genetics teacher Marie Smith said that half the battle of getting people into science careers makes them feel empowered in a lab and feel empowered to be a part of the field.
“So once we’ve had that initial interaction and let them get some hands-on experience, they can see their results and feel a little more empowered, be exposed to the technology, become familiar with it and hopefully. the, in the long run, pursue some of these careers, ”Smith said.
The group left Monday afternoon for a few days in the Pee Dee area of the state after a COVID-19 hiatus and have dozens of trips on the schedule until 2022.
Contact editor Lindsey Hodges at 864-943-5644 or on Twitter @LindseyNHodges.