A new Harlem lab is unlocking the world of biomedical research and genetics for city school students and may engineer some future scientists. NY1’s Health reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
Running, tweaking and pipetting samples through machines, a group of city teens from the Emily N. Carey Harbor School are some of the latest students to take advantage of a new Harlem DNA laboratory.
A partnership between the city’s Department of Education and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory based out of Long Island now has over 4,000 students and teachers a year from schools throughout the five boroughs make the trip to upper Manhattan to unlock the mysteries of human DNA.
“This is an incredible resource. Generally high school science is under-resourced in the city. So to have access to this and particularly because of the subject and content is incredible,” said Hans Hageman, founder of the Carey Harbor School.
Housed in the John S. Roberts Education complex, the lab aims to put some of the most state-of-the-art technology in the hands of students so they can learn about cell biology and DNA research.
Schools book field trips to the space to conduct projects such as analyzing their DNA fragments, learning about population genetics, and genetically engineering E. coli.
“This is genetics, basically. Yes, it is genetics to its fullest,” said lab teacher Dr. Jermel Watkins. “It is basically looking at trying to merge DNA science and biotechnology. What we are doing is molecularly looking at the biology and trying to expand it out so we can see it.”
“Today was fun and I learned a lot about DNA. I thought it was fingerprints and blood samples but there is a lot more to it,” said student Zakiyah Gale.
Teachers say it is very important for students learn about the concepts of genetics.
“With regard to DNA, whether you are talking about genetically modified foods, genetic testing, those are incredibly important things these kids as citizens of this country are going to have to be informed about if they are going to be able to make intelligent decisions,” said Hageman.
Some of these students seem to be on their way to being informed about DNA.
“I think it is fun because I want to grow up to become a forensic scientist, so it is like learning for me, it is interesting for me,” said student Shajea Stephenson.