Take it with a grain of ... Rice

[caption id="attachment_1014" align="alignleft" width="300"] By IRRI images[/caption]

I can't believe that the first semester is already drawing to a close. Tomorrow AP Bio will take their Genetic Technology unit test. Then, following a much needed Thanksgiving Break, we will jump into our final unit for the semester (evolution). To think, by this time in the spring semester we had almost finished the curriculum. This time around we are just over halfway through. Ahh, the gift of time. 

Having the gift of time has allowed as to investigate some Genetic Technology topics much more deeply than I would have been able to in the past. We are living in an era where manipulating the genomes of other organisms has become a normal research activity (or AP Bio lab activity) and the ideas of cloning or cells that can become anything are not far-fetched. Topics like these are really fun to explore because they offer the opportunity to delve into the ethics of science. Is it right to manipulate the genetics of other organisms? Should we be allowed to clone humans? All interesting, multifaceted questions that we are working through presently. Side note, this past week the students blogged about the ethics of genetically manipulating organisms. I would highly recommend that you check out these offerings from Yaa, Autumn, and Abbi. As a teacher I really love working with students as the grapple with the complexities of these issues. What, you mean that science has moral implications? Go figure.

Without yammering further, let me get out of the way and let them tell you about the last couple of weeks in class. This time around, we have contributions from Alana Lee, Shiyan Shoyoye, Abbi Williams, Thomas Moorhead, and Auon Syed.

Abbi Begins:

Ahh the smell of a four day school week… So relaxing, but not in AP Bio! In this class we are always into something! This week dove head first into the ideas, morals, and ethics of genetic technology. As a class, we brainstormed some pretty awesome ideas on what improvements we would like to see in a particular organism. As for ethics and morals however, there was some slight controversy – only to be expected! As the academically talented students we are, we went deep in discussion over the idea of genetic technology; discussing the good, bad, and the ugly. A special shout out to Mr. Kite for opening up our eyes to the endless opportunities available to us through genetic technology!

Shiyan Continues:

This week in Biology has once again proven to be very eventful. Earlier this week, we submitted the second part of our HIV projects, which involved a scenario where a man in Durham had been diagnosed with a new strain of the retrovirus. From there, we were to present how to locate HIV in a genome, describe how scientists create multiple copies of the retrovirus using plasmids, and finally, how one can determine the base sequence of HIV. Some groups answered these questions through physical posters and Glogsters.

We also covered the basics about viruses. Some of the things we learned include the various structures of a virus, the major reproductive cycles (lytic and lysogenic), and how HIV reproduces.

On Thursday, there was a different agenda: We had a mini debate on golden rice. Golden rice, which is a rice that is genetically modified to contain vitamin A, could help poor countries whose people mainly carbohydrate rich (but poor in nutrient) rice. Golden rice is not yet available to countries in need, because of the ethical dilemmas and pleiotropic effects. By the end of the day, everyone took an adamant side of the argument.

On Friday, we had a guest speaker, Dr. Seaton come in to talk more about HIV with us (along with Mr. Kite). She was able to help us answer some of the questions that are in the next section of our HIV project packets, and she also told us about her research.

Thomas Contributes:

Normally a four day week would be a God send, we just have to get through a couple of days of class and then the weekend. Unfortunately mister Kite has to try something new. Sometimes it seems like we're just an experiment for our teacher. We did a discussion on golden rice encompassing all of the implications, moral to genetic variation. Even though mister Kite wouldn't let up even one day I still had fun and learned a few things, begrudgingly of course. Oh yeah we also had an HIV project did a Jeopardy review and analyzed some videos, but whats new?

Auon Adds:

We introduced the week with discussing as a class what makes up differential gene expression. We divided into groups and wrote on the board what were some key points of our assigned parts. At around the middle of the week we reviewed for our test with a game of Jeopardy. Thursday and Friday were used to close out the week with a two-day lab regarding the growth of E. Coli bacteria when affected by anitbiotics and when it is not.

Alana Concludes:

Is it just me, or are things changing for the better? My fellow classmates and I started the week off right, taking our DNA Test (CH 16-18) Monday. I must say, we were in higher spirits after taking the test than before. Many of use felt that we fared better this time around than the last test; we don’t know yet for sure, given we haven’t gotten our grades yet, but this could be good sign. If not, then we started the week off optimistically. Moving along, as usual, Mr. Kite was not there to cheer us on as we took our test, but we all likely had him in the back of our mind or on our shoulders playing devils advocate during the whole time… PAUSE. Yep, that’s right! We were fortunate to have a day off from school Tuesday, so whatever that day entailed for others varied greatly. I know I was catching some Z’s. Wednesday came too soon, but we were all well prepared for it given we had the next phase of our project due.

This time we were able to create a product of our choice, where we had to describe how to locate HIV in a genome, how to make multiple copies of its genetic material via bacterial plasmid, and how to determine the base sequence of HIV. Thursday was more a review of our video on our new topic of Genetic Technology and had a heated discussion on the Golden Rice Debate; that is, whether genetically energetically engineered rice that helped produce Vitamin A in the body should be created and used globally. Who would have ever thunk a debate over a grain of rice could be the most interesting debate to have?  Friday was a treat! We had a guest speaker who was a researcher on HIV, clinical treatments, and new innovative devices that can help make easy access to testing in third world countries; the trends we learned of were jaw dropping and the information was priceless not only for our current HIV project, but I’m certain for all of us who aspire to go into the health care field.