Wayne College: Applied Learning is in the DNA

07/17/2014

Dr. Snow and Kaitlyn MarcumWayne College biology professor A.J. Snow believes that students learn best by doing, and that belief -- along with significant community support -- has helped him create one of the most technologically advanced biology labs in the area.

Over $40,000 in new lab equipment, donated by local individuals and businesses, will be available to Wayne College students this fall. The equipment includes a microscope with a digital camera and Wi-Fi capabilities, a PCR machine that allows students to amplify DNA as they would for a crime scene investigation, and a plate reader for protein based tests common in the pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry.

The equipment, which will be used initially in Principles of Biology I and II, provides students with a unique advantage for a two-year college such as UA Wayne. According to Snow, most freshman biology students are taught the principles of DNA amplification and sequencing, but it’s rare for students to have the ability to apply those principles in their first year.

Snow said while high school students taking dual-enrollment classes at Wayne College could even use the technology, most of his students are freshman or sophomore biology majors who plan to continue their studies at The University of Akron, where they will be fully prepared for the rigorous upper-level expectations.

“Modern lab equipment features touchscreens and buttons, not knobs and dials, and our students will have the knowledge they need to use this advanced equipment successfully,” Snow said.
Exposure to the cutting-edge equipment also provides students with marketable skills they can use right away to obtain jobs as laboratory technicians.

According to Snow, one of the projects the PCR machine will allow students to complete involves genetic identification where students take a strand of their hair, amplify and sequence the DNA, then identify their risk for particular diseases.

"The PCR machine holds tiny amounts of a fluid sample and uses a thermal block to run through a heating and cooling process that copies a specific piece of DNA,” Snow said. “The technology then allows the user to make hundreds of thousands of DNA copies.”

Snow said the new technology will eventually be used in multiple labs at the college and that more equipment is still to be purchased.

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