Monday, December 14, 2009

Zebrafish Research Externship

A Lincoln K-8 Choice School/Mayo Clinic/W.S.U.-Rochester Partnership

November 2-6 & 9-11, 2009

My first week of this externship began at the Dr. Stephen Ekker Lab, a Zebrafish Core Facility, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Experiences from this week included academic language pertaining to genetics, discussions of pedagogy in the science classroom, social implications of genetic testing, and working directly with research scientist. During this first week, I was part of the Middle School Module testing the experiment and observing zebra fish development affected by ethanol. This experiment would give middle school students first-hand experience of how fetal alcohol syndrome negatively affects human development. A second week involved scaffolding student learning at Lincoln K-8 Choice School and assisting the middle school science teacher with preparation during the three-day lab. The following are just a few of the highlights of the first week of this externship...

Dr. Stephen Ekker Laboratory/Zebra Core Facility


Monday, November 2nd

Dr. Chris Pierret, a research scientist at the Mayo Clinic Zebrafish Core Facility, talks to us about harvesting embryos in the tanks room

Why are Zebrafish a model organism for this facility?

Quick Embryo development (gestation 2-3 days versus 9 months in human)

Embryos are transparent compared to a mouse, pig, or human embryo inside the mother

High fertility rate (500 hundred offspring by the end of a week)

A diverse gene-pool compared to lab mice

Vertebrate like Humans

Shares 70% of DNA with Humans

Systems are comparable to a Human’s:

-Eye (both operate during the day versus a nocturnal eye)





Tuesday, November 3rd

Fluorescent Microscope Training

These microscopes allow a person to see red and green fluorescence if a specimen observed has the expressive gene for fluorescence. This microscope also allows a person to see a specimen under the bright field similar to a dissecting microscope. A color filter is found near the microscope’s base and can change the fluorescence being observed.

So, why would research scientist want to move the fluorescent gene of an algae or jellyfish to the gene of a zebra fish? Besides winning a Nobel Prize for this accomplishment, this ability allows research scientist to attach this gene to a specific part of a zebra fish’s body system that s/he is studying. For example, a research scientist is studying a disease of the blood in humans that can be studied in zebra fish. Well, the fluorescent gene can be attached to the DNA of a zebra fish that creates a part of the blood being studied. Through use of the fluorescent microscope, a research scientist can better study this part of the blood that has the expressive fluorescent gene.

A zebra fish with the gene expression of fluorescence.


Wednesday, November 4th

Module Work

The 6-8 module team took the control and ethanol groups out and observed them through drawings and snapshots. Unfamiliar with the development of these embryos, we could not see developmental delays in the embryos that Dr. Pierret did observe. Besides injecting Embryo zebrafish with enzymes, we also had the opportunity to de-chorionate zebrafish! This involves removing the chorion that surrounds the embryo.

This day was not nearly has hectic as yesterday when we prepared the ethanol solutions, divided the embryos, submerged the embryos in the ethanol solutions, observed the embryos, and then transferred them into embryonic water!

De-chorionating is a procedure in which a person has two forceps and carefully removes the chorion, or membrane, of a zebra fish. A zebra fish does not necessarily require this membrane to develop.


Thursday, November 5th

Rochester Area S.T.E.M. Summit

Rochester Community and Technical College

Dr. Stephen Ekker invited the pre-service teachers to the Rochester Area S.T.E.M. Summit at Rochester Community & Technical College! I didn’t know what to expect but was pleasantly surprised. This summit was an opportunity for teachers to bring students to see businesses in the region that incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math. For me, the highlight of the summit was meeting Superintendent Dr. Romain Dallemand and talking with astronaut Bernard A. Harris, Jr!

From left to right: Dr Stephen Ekker, Dr. Chris Pierret, and Dr. Maggie Hoody at the Rochester Area S.T.E.M. Summit


Friday, November 6th

Large Group Presentation of Extensions

We were encouraged to think outside the realm of the science classroom and think about extension projects that could be developed by students in fields such as social studies and the language arts. Below are my thoughts on student extensions based off of the Dr. Hoody’s excellent 5 Es discussion from Monday.

Collect Data from entire class, create bar graph comparing groups, and find any patterns from the data. Students can present this information and emphasize the process of the scientific method and how inconsistent controls and too many variables will skew/muddy an outcome.

How has alcohol consumption by women during pregnancy changed throughout the past 100 years? Is it the same or different from one culture to another?

Social Studies
How has society reacted to fetal-alcohol syndrome? What education has been placed into society? Is it the same or different from one culture to another?

Interview a relative, parent or person in the medical field who works directly or in directly with those affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. Students can research how to facilitate a successful interview. For presentation, the student could orally present the interview or write it up in the form of a paper. Technology can be incorporated by recording the interview and creating a podcast or video podcast.

Language Arts
Students can read, discuss, and present literature that deals with the issues relating to the misuse of alcohol consumption.

These highlights are just a splash of the numerous opportunities we, WSU-R pre-service teachers, were able to experience during the first week at the Zebrafish Core Facility at the Mayo Clinic. The following weeks were spent at Lincoln K-8 Choice School scaffolding student learning that we experienced for ourselves during the first week of this externship. On a personal note, I look forward to incorporating the zebrafish, modules, discourse, and everything else I experienced this week into my own classroom!

A special thank you to Dr. Maggie Hoody for incorporating the WSU-R pre-service teachers within this magnificent professional development opportunity!

-Kelly James Schrandt

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