October 12, 2009 at 10:07 PM 2 comments

Posted by TH.

Last week, 200 middle school students participated in the Science Frontiers Day hosted by Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. The kids had a chance to do brief activities presented by health care companies, biotech firms, and a few area colleges. My job was to supervise the DNA Extraction mini lab where the students extracted DNA from their cheek cells and used these to form necklaces.

DNA in a Vial

DNA in a Vial



The DNA is the cloudy material in the glass vial in the picture to the left. A close-up reveals material that ranges from opaque to white.



DNA in a Clump.
DNA in a Clump.


The picture above is an example of a larger quantity of DNA that can be more easily seen.

This lab exercise required students to gently scrape cheek cells, rinse their mouths, and collect the cells by spitting the rinse into test tubes. The students added a salt/lysis solution to help split the cells, and then added an enzyme to digest the proteins and other debris to isolate the DNA. After a few more steps in the procedure, students were able to transfer the solution containing the isolated DNA to glass vials that were super-glued to a cap and could then be strung on a cord.

Any activity involving middle school students, body fluids, spitting, and superglue (especially during the flu season) seems a bit risky to me, but everything worked out ok.  When I was asked to do the lab by my College Dean, my aspiration was merely to survive the experience and ensure that the students were safe and could have a little fun learning about how cool science can be.

That happened, but so did something else that I had not anticipated. Once the superglue and waste from the lab was disposed of, I had some time to reflect on the experience. I realized that the activity was also a lesson in theology, at least for me.

Around Easter, millions of Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the awesomeness of a God who conquers death, who turns mourning into dancing, and sorrow into joy. Every creature – no matter how large or how small – the incredible diversity of life, the amazing workings of your body, arise with the directions provided by DNA.

And what does this molecule look like when it is isolated and viewed without the aid of a super strong microscope? It looks like boogers. So, God makes the diversity and complexity and beauty of life out of something that looks a lot like snot. That is almost as cool theologically as having eternal life despite death.  

Entry filed under: biology, Christianity, evolution, theology.


2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Edith  |  October 14, 2009 at 1:54 PM

    Only TH could come up with those kinds of connections! God is indeed, awesome! Thanks for reminding those of us who are so often oblivious to what is going on around and in us, that God is everywhere, even closer than our own skin!

  • 2. TH  |  October 14, 2009 at 8:59 PM

    Thanks for reading the post and for your positive comments. God is not only closer than our own skin, but is One who comes in unexpected ways…


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