Published February 2021

Written by: Ruby Mitchell

Mr. Young’s advanced biology class has been super busy in the past weeks with lots of fun activities.  Currently, they are studying biotechnology and forensics.  This unit comes with hands-on labs, activities, and even a special guest speaker.

The students first started by learning to use a micropipettor.  This is a very important skill for DNA scientists, as it transports very small amounts of fluids into a different space.  Next, the students had to create the gel for a gel electrophoresis and correctly insert DNA into it.  A gel electrophoresis is what’s used to match the DNA from a culprit to the DNA of a suspect.  The class was divided into two groups.  One group didn’t quite get the results they wanted but still had fun.  The second group effectively inserted the DNA and got the exact results they wanted.  Both groups had a lot of fun with the activity and learned a lot too.

Next, the students were split into groups of three and were given a packet full of information about a murder case that needed to be solved.  The students started by creating pedigrees of each of the suspects to learn more about their genetic variations.  After the pedigrees were completed, there were pages of each suspect’s map of chromosomes on a paper, called a karyotype.  The students collected information from this and a copy of a gel electrophoresis and got to work solving the case.  The students were to come up with a conclusion and be ready to present their case to the court the next day.  The students were required to come up with a motive for the murder and were also allowed rebuttal time with other groups in the court.

On February 18, Special Agent Chris Callaway came to their classroom to talk about his work as a Special Agent in the Major Crimes Unit of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.  Callaway began with an introduction about himself, his career, and how long it took him to get into his position.  Then, it was down to business.  Callaway discussed his first murder case in detail and included the class to help solve it.  The class learned important information about where to look for evidence in crime scenes and how some cases that seem easy to solve can actually be extremely difficult.  They were able to see pictures from the crime scene and were able to narrow it down to one of the suspects.

The students loved having this opportunity and appreciated the information they learned.  Senior Jocelyn Brady was especially grateful for this opportunity, “Special Agent Chris Callaway really showed our class what the reality of his job was!  As the detective, he comes up with the questions and collects the evidence while the lab technicians in other areas answer the unsolved questions. It takes a good sense of teamwork to solve a crime!”