Penn State Lewistown Center adds new equipment to Health and Science Lab

LEWISTOWN, Pa. — The Penn State Lewistown Center has added a new piece of equipment to its Health and Science Lab for use in its educational programming.

Instructors at the center will be able to perform electrophoresis, which is a method of separating macromolecules by size so they can be visualized for analyses, such as DNA fingerprinting. The purchase was made possible by a $3,180 community needs grant from the Rotary Club of Lewistown, and the equipment has been in use since the week of June 15.

“Rotary’s support is truly appreciated,” said Thomas Walker, the director of the Lewistown Center. “It has allowed us to expand the educational opportunities for our summer youth campers along with our adult students’ academic studies.”

Middle school students from Mifflin and Juniata counties used the equipment in a mock crime-scene experiment during the recent annual summer youth science camp at the center. For their experiment, the students collected samples of DNA from suspects to match the DNA collected from the mock crime scene.

The students extracted the DNA samples into vials using a fast-spinning process called centrifugation, and they put the resulting blue-stained mixtures into small pockets in the basin of the equipment, which was filled with gel. Then, they applied an electric charge, which makes the DNA molecules move.

When the DNA molecules settled, the students could see the DNA thanks to the blue stains, which allowed them to compare the various samples to the one matching the evidence they collected at the mock crime scene.

Kirk Gilbert, an instructor at the Lewistown Center, applied for the grant.

“The new electrophoresis equipment now allows us to perform standard experiments in molecular biology, particularly in separating complex mixtures of macromolecules into single components, all based on their molecular size,” Gilbert said. “It’s a great way of visualizing with the naked eye something that exists at the molecular level, and it opens the door for limitless studies beyond the initial separation of macromolecules.”

In addition, Gilbert said the equipment can be used by students in the BIO 141 (physiology) class or by students in the associate in science in medical laboratory technology (MLT) program for similar types of experiments.

The Lewistown Center was one of 16 applicants for the grant money, said Jim Zubler, the chairman of the Rotary Club’s community needs committee.

“The Rotary Club of Lewistown was happy to support such a worthwhile project and see our funds being utilized for many years with the purchase of these materials needed for the camp,” he said.

For more information about educational programs offered through the Penn State Lewistown Center, visit its website.

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Mike Dawson

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408 The 329 Building, University Park, PA 16802

Last Updated June 29, 2015