DNA Day Participants Explore How the "Cookie Crumbles"

Participants in Monday's DNA Day at Genesee Community College will use sophisticated technology to try to solve the fictitious "Great Cookie Caper" devised by biology instructor Maureen Leupold.

"The exercise is based on stealing cookies, actually. It's not a horrible crime scene," said Leupold, who works with teachers in the College Tech Prep Health Careers Academy to provide a stimulating experience for the program's 60 students. "It gets the kids thinking about who could have actually done this."

Twelfth-graders from a number of schools in the GLOW (Genesee-Livingston-Orleans-Wyoming) region are enrolled in the Health Careers Academy, a joint venture of Genesee Valley BOCES, Genesee Community College, and Genesee Region College Tech Prep Consortium.

In its fifth year, Health Academy classes are conducted Monday through Friday in Batavia, Dansville and Warsaw. The Academy teachers are employed by BOCES. DNA Day is just one of many activities the students engage in for a more comprehensive learning opportunity.

"The whole concept of DNA Day and DNA profiling is to identify someone," Leupold said. "DNA fingerprinting is a tool used in a multitude of applications to establish identity. We commonly associate this technique with forensics - identifying who was at a crime scene, or who a victim or perpetrator is."Students will be charged with trying to figure out what happened to Girl Scout cookies apparently purchased by Debbie Dunlevy, College Tech Prep director, who was found unconscious in the biology lab prep room on the third floor of the D wing of the College.

Evidence found at the scene included a partially eaten cookie, a hat that may have been knocked off the perpetrator's head during a struggle with Dunlevy and scrapings of Dunlevy's fingernails. The evidence was sent to the College's DNA lab for processing to obtain DNA fingerprints.

Leupold provides students with additional information concerning the alleged crime, including summaries of interrogations of several suspects. She also provides them with a detailed outline of the format used to analyze the evidence.

"The kids will be using tools such as a micropipette and microcentrifuge and will utilize gel electrophoresis procedures to separate the minute DNA fragments and stain them so they can see the fragments."

Each step must be completed accurately and thoroughly to obtain the desired results, Leupold noted.

This year's DNA Day gets under way on Monday, Nov. 28th with the morning session beginning at 9:00 a.m., breaking for lunch at 11:00 a.m. - when a medical terminology competition takes place - and concludes with an afternoon session from noon to 2:00 p.m.

"The bottom line is that although it seems to be a very complicated technique, it is very doable. The students really enjoy the opportunity to explore this combination of science and technology," Leupold added.

Editor's Note: A photograph of students participating in a prior year's DNA Day is available at the following Internet location: http://marketing.genesee.edu/images/DNA Day.jpg

Photo Caption- ANALYZE THIS: At the previous DNA Day at Genesee Community College, John Oehler, left, and Melanie Loranty, right, (now respective graduates from Notre Dame and Alexander High School) learned the step-by-step process of DNA fingerprinting. Through College Tech Prep Health Careers Academy, the students explored various aspects of health/medicine careers. This semester's DNA Day is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 28. (Photo provided by Genesee Community College.)