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Central Arizona College Students Craft a Unique DNA Christmas Tree in Biology Course


In a creative blend of biology and holiday spirit, students from Central Arizona College's BIO181 course have completed a one-of-a-kind project: a DNA Christmas tree. Under the guidance of Professor Sunjung Park, an expert in Biology/Chemistry, the class embarked on this innovative journey.

Spanning over three weeks, the students engaged in rigorous planning sessions to identify the necessary materials for their project. Their resourcefulness shone through as they collected items like cardboard boxes, Styrofoam, and wire to construct the DNA Christmas tree. This hands-on experience was more than a mere craft activity; it served as a practical lesson in understanding the complex structure of DNA.

As they built the tree, the students delved into the finer details of DNA. They explored the concept of antiparallel strands in a chromosome and studied the structure of nucleotides, comprising phosphate, ribose, and nitrogenous bases. The project also highlighted the complementary sequence binding of nucleotides, such as Adenine to Thymine (A=T) and Cytosine to Guanine (C≡G), which forms the iconic double-helical structure of DNA.

Professor Park expressed her admiration for the students' work, noting the accuracy of the B-form DNA structure they created. The model featured major and minor grooves and accurately depicted the 10 to 11 nucleotides that make up a complete turn, showcasing the anti-parallel structure of DNA.

The project wasn't just a visual marvel; it carried profound biological significance. The DNA structure symbolizes homologous chromosomes, which are pairs of chromosomes—one from each parent—that come together during fertilization. With 23 sets of these chromosomes in each human cell, they play a critical role in determining an individual's characteristics. The project effectively illustrated how the combination of maternal and paternal genes shapes our appearance.

Reflecting on the project's origin, Professor Park shared that the idea took root in November 2019 with the crafting of the first paternal chromosome by a previous batch of BIO181 students. This year, the current students added the maternal chromosome to complete the set, bringing the concept of homologous chromosomes to life.

The culmination of this project marks a significant milestone, as it is believed to be the first DNA sculpture that represents homologous chromosomes in the form of a Christmas tree. The initiative not only enhanced the students' understanding of DNA structure but also fostered a collaborative learning environment. Professor Park expressed immense pride in witnessing the students' engagement, mutual education, and idea exchange throughout the project.

This unique DNA Christmas tree stands as a testament to the innovative teaching approach at Central Arizona College, where complex scientific concepts are transformed into engaging and educational experiences.
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Monday, 20 May 2024

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