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October 25, 2012

NC Museum of Natural Sciences Education Blog

One of our most popular classes is the Gel Electrophoresis class. Students learn how to use micropipettes, work with agarose gels and gel chambers, and microcentrifuge DNA samples to actually set up, run, stain, and read a DNA electrophoresis.

First, students practice loading “fake” gels with a blue-dyed sugar solution. The micropipettes are inserted into the tiny wells (slots) in the Jello-like material. Blue-dyed sugar solution, substituting for DNA material, is deposited in the wells.

Once they master this, the students go on to load actual agarose gels with “fake DNA crime samples” – i.e., samples from a victim, the crime scene evidence, and two suspect DNA samples. These gels are then placed in a chamber and an electrical current is run through the chamber so that the various-sized DNA fragments are carried across the gel. Different-sized fragments travel different distances through the gel material. At the end of the…

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