January 1, 2008 (Vol. 28, No. 1)
Strong Points: Great idea, ambitious program
Weak Points: Not much for outsiders
No, those aren’t the call letters of a TV station, but instead the acronym for the Waksman Student Scholars Program, a effort at Rutgers University (funded at least partly by GE) to immerse high school students in molecular genetics laboratories with the aim of helping them to better understand the subject. It appears to be quite ambitious, if the projects listed online that students perform are any indication. Each year, students tackle a new research problem and assemble their data as a team. For example the project for 07/08 is “genomic analysis of the brine shrimp Artemia fanciscana, and how the genes in this organism compare to other species.” Students actually isolate DNA from this previously unsequenced organism, determine the sequences, analyze them, and upload them to international sequence databases. Wow! Where was this program back in the dark ages when I was a high school student? I would have given anything to work on a project like this. It should be noted that most of the content at the site is password protected, so the data is only available to participants, but if you’re in the Rutgers area, you may want to investigate the possibility of having your children participate in the effort.