Teen DNA Detectives

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

kerry grens
Kerry Grens

Kerry served as The Scientist’s news director until 2021. Before joining The Scientist in 2013, she was a stringer for Reuters Health, the senior health and science reporter at...

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Dec 1, 2011

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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