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Senior Catherine O’Keeffe holds her Twizzler DNA strand in place.

Genomics class celebrates DNA Day

April 30, 2013

James Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins would no doubt have reveled in the recent DNA Day celebration in Susan Parrish’s Genomics class. But chances are even these pioneering scientists who discovered DNA’s structure had never used Twizzlers and multi-colored gummy bears to illustrate its double-helix design.

The same cannot be said of the six seniors and one junior who each devised and shared with the class a different way to hail the inimitable blueprint of life.

Juliana Broussard of Hagerstown, Md., showed off the DNA molecule a friend crocheted. Catherine O’Keeffe of Tuckahoe, N.Y., told the story behind her cartoon of Nucleus High and its “students,” including DNA, “a serious teenager, an architect who loves blueprints and seems wrapped up in what he’s doing.”

They made DNA bracelets, twisted Twizzlers connected by toothpick-strung gummy bears, and delighted in DNA cupcakes, while DNA-themed music and video played in the background. Kirsten Bickford of Sykesville, Md., wore her “DNA” as a headband.

And Luke Schmidt of Red Lion, Pa., challenged his classmates to follow their unique DNA code, which he supplied in sealed envelopes, as they iced and decorated the brownie pops he made and brought to class.

Parrish’s former students lit up her Facebook page with envious comments when they heard this year’s class was prepping for this, the third annual DNA Day, and one sent homemade candy in the shape of the celebrated molecule.

“I work them pretty hard – they do original research in this class and it is one of our writing intensive courses,” says Parrish, a Biology professor who has a similar celebration in her fall molecular biology class with the students designing and wearing Halloween costumes that relate to the topic.

The reason for the celebration is much simpler to understand than DNA’s encoded genetic instructions.

“I think they need a day of fun,” says Parrish.

 
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