Experimenting with Science: DNA Work Draws 13 Students into Lab

Article excerpt

While many teen-agers are flipping burgers and basking in the sun this summer, 13 D.C. and Maryland rising high school seniors are wearing white lab coats and learning the intricacies of DNA testing and forensics.

For six weeks this summer, the students are earning a small stipend and expanding their knowledge of biology and genetics in a cool third-floor laboratory at Catholic University in Northwest.

Chigozie Ogwuegbu, 16, expects to get an edge for college and eventually medical school by taking the time now to use equipment and learn techniques usually reserved for graduate students.

"I wanted to be in this program because I want to be a surgeon," said Chigozie, who attends Banneker High School in the District. "Many people don't have the opportunity to experience what I'm experiencing this summer."

Yesterday morning, the students took on the role of amateur scientists who could help solve crimes: They were learning how to duplicate a submicroscopic amount of DNA to get a sample large enough to help identify someone.

To keep the experiment simple, they used themselves as the donors. The students plucked hairs from their eyebrows and scraped the inside of their cheeks with toothpicks in the first step of DNA testing.

After processing the cells, they eventually would be able to decode the samples and see what makes each human unique.

Tiffany Montague, 15, said that learning the techniques now could help her if she decides to pursue forensics. …