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Teen DNA Detectives

Genomicist Mark Stoeckle and three high school students have taken do-it-yourself science to a new level. 

By | December 1, 2011

Katie, Grace, and Rohan grinding tea samples with mortar and pestles. These were purchased at a local grocery store. Mechanical disruption is the first step in DNA extraction—it helps break open plant cell wells and release DNA.Mark Stoeckle

Katie, Grace, and Rohan grinding tea samples with mortar and pestles. These were purchased at a local grocery store. Mechanical disruption is the first step in DNA extraction—it helps break open plant cell wells and release DNA.Mark Stoeckle

Teen DNA Detectives Image Gallery

Genomicist Mark Stoeckle and three high school students have taken do-it-yourself science to a new level. Research headquarters are Stoeckle’s Upper West Side apartment, where he’s laid out pipettes, a thermocycler, and a gel reader in the spots usually reserved for a centerpiece and dinner plates. For the past several years, Stoeckle, a physician and an adjunct faculty m­ember at Rockefeller University, has been u­sing DNA barcoding to lead students on a g­enetic journey through the urban environment. With high schoolers from T­rinity School, a private school not far from his home, Stoeckle has made some interesting discoveries: sushi restaurants sometimes lie about what species is on your plate, there’s ostrich DNA in feather dusters, and buffalo mozzarella actually does contain genetic material from water buffalo.

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