South Orangetown Central School District

Sixty-one Honors Living Environment and AP Biology students took a virtual field trip to participate in a Human Mitochondrial Sequencing lab at DNA Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories last week! The event was the culmination of a multi-week project coordinated by Tappan Zee High School science teacher Nicole Farish through which students analyzed a section of their own mitochondrial DNA and learned theories behind how modern humans evolved.

Starting in late February, students were trained remotely by lab instructors on submitting DNA samples with a home kit which they picked up from and returned to Tappan Zee High School. Completed kits were sent to the lab for further processing. On March 18, students attended a two-hour Zoom session to discuss and analyze their results. Participants learned how Polymerase Chain Reaction machines amplify DNA and observed gel electrophoresis plates to help analyze their mitochondrial DNA and determine evolutionary relationships. Students further analyzed their mitochondrial DNA sequences and compared them to Neanderthal and modern human sequences using an online bioserver.

“This is a lab that we have previously done in person at the Regeneron facilities in Sleepy Hollow,” Farish explained. “However, due to the pandemic, we were forced to think outside of the box to bring students this opportunity. Maintaining the hands-on component was critical for bolstering students’ lab skills. The lab instructors demonstrated techniques and skills via Zoom which provided our students with a deeper understanding of how the fields of genetics and evolution are intertwined. It was a great experience. Hopefully, we’ll be able to return to Regeneron in person next year.”