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Students use new fingerprint technique to solve a ‘crime’

Science students experienced the thrill of being a CSI agent in a fascinating genetic fingerprinting session.

Students studying A-Level Biology and BTEC Level 3 Applied Science, carried out a specialist technique known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), to amplify DNA recovered from a mock crime scene at the College. The students then conducted gel electrophoresis of the sample, with samples of DNA taken from four suspects, in order to identify the ‘criminal’.

DNA fingerprinting is used to match genetic information with the person it came from. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique is used to copy a tiny fragment of DNA so that there is enough to use in gel electrophoresis. Gel electrophoresis uses gel and electricity to separate DNA fragments based on size, creating a distinct pattern that represents an individual’s genetic information.

Gemma Willis, Biology Lecturer at Sunderland College, said:
“This session gave our A-Level and BTEC Level 3 students the opportunity to work together and to share their knowledge of biological applications. It was fantastic that we could offer our students the opportunity to work with PCR equipment in college as it strengthens their knowledge and understanding of concepts covered in their studies.”

Kimberley Watt, A-Level Biology student, said:
“This exciting, practical session allowed me to experience PCR and electrophoresis first-hand, which has given me a better understanding of the processes involved.”

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