What traits are heritable? How different is your DNA from a frog's, a mouse's or even your relative's? Can your genes tell doctors what is the right dose of a medicine for your body? These are the types of questions scientists are answering with genetics and genomics. By studying individual genes as well as genomes, the whole set of DNA belonging to an organism, scientists hope to get a more complete understanding of how our bodies work and develop better disease treatments. Whether genetics is new to you or a growing fascination, our collection of genetic and genomic science projects is sure to have something right at your level.
The DNA in our cells contains our "blueprints," but it's the proteins in our cells that do most of the work. The Human Genome Project has allowed us to start reading the blueprints, but we still don't understand what most of the proteins do. This is a fairly advanced project that explores ways of identifying the function of unknown proteins.
Native plants are important for both ecological and medicinal reasons. However, most native plants are not very well studied. One way to know more about these plants is to understand which other species of plants they are most closely related to. In this science project you will sequence part of the chloroplast genome from a native plant and use this information to determine its evolutionary relationship to other species of plants. If the plant you chose has not been sequenced before, you can…
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Long (2-4 weeks)
High school biology class; familiarity with using the PCR machine and gel electrophoresis equipment, and/or using the equipment with a mentor.
You will need specialized pieces of equipment, including a PCR machine (thermocycler) and a gel electrophoresis apparatus. If your school does not have this equipment you might want to seek out a mentor at a junior college, university, or biotechnology company. If you have the resources you can do the DNA sequencing yourself, otherwise you can send the samples to Dr. Baysdorfer at California State University, East Bay, see Experimental Procedure for more details.
High ($100 - $150)
This project uses ethidium bromide, which is a carcinogen. Always wear gloves and safety goggles when handling. Dispose of the ethidium bromide according to your school or institute's hazardous waste protocols. If you have concerns, ask your teacher or mentor for advice.
Imagine that a biologist arrived at your big family reunion and had no idea who were sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc., but tried to sort it out by how all of you look. Just based on how you look, would s/he be able to guess whether the kid standing next to you is your sister or your cousin? The biologist might be able to make some good guesses this way, but by using samples of your family's DNA, s/he could construct your whole family tree. In this project, you'll use Web-based computer…
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Average (6-10 days)
High School Biology, excellent website navigation skills