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16th September 2021

Biologists try their hand at PCR testing

Form 7 Biology pupils have settled straight back into their lessons this week with PCR testing; something which has become very well known to everyone due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Set up as a simulated crime scene, pupils were able to use their skills to test a suspect’s DNA from fingerprint evidence. They used state of the art Gilson pipettes to conduct their testing and then ran their samples through the School’s PCR machine.

PCR, which stands for polymerase chain reaction, is a test which detects genetic material from a specific organism. It can be used to test for viruses such as Covid-19 but is also a widely used method for DNA testing in crime scenes.

PCR makes thousands of copies of things so in order to carry out a test accurately the pupils had to learn about the dangers of cross contamination.

Patricia Ingles, Head of Biology, said: “The pupils were really excited to carry out the PCR tests as this method of testing has become widely known since Coronavirus and they were carrying out their tests in exactly the same way.”

“They could use these skills to volunteer for Covid-19 testing should they wish as this is currently done by a lot of university students.”

“Being able to facilitate a practical lesson in a field such as this is a great way for pupils to try things for themselves and learn by doing. We always find that the more practical sessions are popular with the pupils as they enjoy trying things for themselves.”

The samples taken during the PCR testing were then examined in their next lesson using a method called gel electrophoresis. Find out more about Biology at Oakham School.

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