Lab Coats Optional

Lab Coats.jpg

Decked out in goggles and heavy lab aprons, more than a dozen students painstakingly drip liquid into a vial and compare its changing colors against others to determine the amount of glucose in a lab sample, a test to determine if a subject had diabetes.

This is not a university science course, however, or a medical school’s laboratory work.

No, this is the Biomedicine I class at Loganville Christian Academy, where high school students get hands-on experience with laboratory techniques and tests little seen without a high school diploma already in hand.

Mike Davis, the biomedicine teacher at LCA, said the course was an excellent way to introduce students to experiences they would get in few other places at their age.

“This is so fundamentally applicable to the job market,” Davis said. “We’re teaching real-world skills they could take on to medical school, nursing courses or other niche. We’re tying to make career connections for the students.”

Part of this approach, through the school’s Project Lead the Way initiative for science, technology, engineering and mathematics instruction, involves a great deal of classroom visits, with students hearing from doctors, registered nurses, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials and other science and medicine personnel.

The other is through hands-on exercises, such as Davis’ annual crime scene, in which students take on the role of crime scene investigators to examine a fake death.

Such work can include the aforementioned glucose testing or, in the more advanced Biomedicine II course, DNA gel electrophoresis, a technique used in real labs across the country.

“Biomed II mixed and poured their own agarose gels, used micropipettes to load the gels with actual DNA samples, ran the gels through the electrophoresis apparatus, stained the gels with FlashBlue stain and now, midway through the de-stain, the lines of DNA are becoming visible in two of the three gels,” Davis said, rattling off a series of scientific terms better understood by his students than this reporter. “We will actually be able to discern which DNA samples match and which do not. This is the basis for the techniques used in DNA comparisons in medicine, forensics and research.”

Of course, there are some things he can’t fake.

“In a classroom setting, they don’t get real blood,” Davis said. “But we are working with actual DNA.”

For the students working in these STEM courses, it’s an experience not to be missed.

Henry Thomas Rutland, a senior at LCA, said working in his Biomed II courses with the electrophoresis was a great opportunity.

“I absolutely love it,”he said. “It’s wonderful. I don’t know anywhere else we’d get this experience. It’s a lot of fun.”

Rutland said he wants to go to medical school one day to be a doctor and credited the class as a great way to jumpstart his ambition.

Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2016 12:00 am

Stephen Milligan | The Tribune | 0 comments