From Greenwich Time:
There were more to the tiny worms that Convent of the Sacred Heart sophomores saw through microscopes than meets the eye.
On Monday, the students, part of the school’s science research program, were introduced to C. elegans, a worm used to study gene regulation and function. The students learned about how the worms formed the basis for cutting-edge research into aging and even cancer.
The lesson, given by visiting scientist Bruce Nash, kicked off a partnership between Sacred Heart and the world-renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory‘s DNA Learning Center. The laboratory, across the Sound on Long Island, N.Y., was once run by James Watson, who, with Francis Crick discovered the double helix structure of DNA.
Each student in the science research program works for three years on an independent project. Through the partnership, students interested in exploring genetics will have the opportunity to visit the laboratory as they work on projects.
“So many of them want to go into the medical field, and several of them mentioned genetics,” said Mary Musolino, director of the Upper School’s science research program. “That’s why it’s such a perfect fit.”
The charter membership also includes opportunities for field trips to the lab, as well as summer enrichment programs. The charter membership, which costs $25,000, was made possible by gifts from the school’s Parents’ Association and by the family of Indra Nooyi.
Through the partnership, Middle and Upper School students will receive instruction from the laboratory’s scientists, as the sophomores did Monday. Nash discussed C. elegans, which he referred to as “sort of like the fruit fly of the worm world” and which have cells that behave similarly to human cells.
The students examined petri dishes of regular worms and worms with genetic mutations through microscopes. Nash explained that in research, genes of the worm have been changed, extending their lives of just a few days by 15 times.
Sophomore Lily Pillari said she became interested in genetics after reading articles to help her come up with an idea for her research project.
“It was very informative,” Pillari, 15, said of the inaugural lesson with Nash.
Pillari’s classmate, Mo Narasimhan, said she hopes to one day study the role of genetics in mental disorders, such as anorexia.
“I’d done a little bit of reading on Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, but today’s discussion was very interesting,” said Narasimhan, 16.
Nash, co-author of the textbook “Genome Science,” mainly works with high school and undergraduate students doing independent research projects, and teaches labs and lectures to students, as well as instructors.
“I think they’re great because we can give a more direct link between the students and what researchers do,” Nash said of the partnerships between schools and the lab. “It gives students a good chance at actually doing some science and doing science with tools researchers are currently using.”
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