KNOXVILLE, TN Agarose gel electrophoresis" Most teenagers wouldnt have a clue what this scientific term means, but middle school student Andrew Trigiano knows the protocol inside and out. When Andrew was 12, his father Robert Trigiano, a professor at the University of Tennessee, was looking for an interesting science project for his son. Setting out to compare differences in popular brands of Easter egg dyes, Trigianos project soon grew into a full-blown scientific study and set of replicable classroom experiments.
One of the most frequently used tools in biochemistry and biotechnology, agarose gel electrophoresis is a common forensic technique often used in genetic or DNA fingerprinting. The procedure is achieved by moving negatively charged nucleic acid molecules through a gelatinous substance known as agarose by using an electric field.
Andrew, in collaboration with his father and other researchers, completed the study, which is published in the January 2008 issue the American Society of Horticultural Sciences journal HortTechnology. The youngest author ever to publish in an ASHS journal, Andrew was only 12 when he began the research project and 14 when the study was published.
The resulting experiments were developed for use in middle and high school classrooms or for teachers and undergraduate students who have limited hands-on experience with this technique. As Dr. Trigiano explained, one experiment, electrophoresis of common food dyes, was designed for secondary and undergraduate students but can be used as an inexpensive means for introducing the main concepts of electrophoresis to anyone. Popular brands of food dyes (red, blue, yellow, and green) purchased at local markets are mixed into a 60% glycerol/water solution and are separated on 1% agarose gels. Mixed colors are separated into primary colors (e.g., green into blue and yellow) and some apparently single dyes often have extra surprise components.
|Contact: Michael W. Neff|
American Society for Horticultural Science