Guest speaker and interactive lab apply LWW classroom lessons to the real world
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

On Thursday, April 12, 2018, Lincoln-Way West parent and pediatrician Dr. Douglas Bierma visited Honors Biology and Anatomy and Physiology classes for the seventh year in a row.

“We are very fortunate that Dr. Bierma volunteers his time to speak in what has become an annual tradition,” says Biology teacher Karla Horn. “Many of our students are interested in medicine and STEM fields, so it is great for the students to see that genetics is an integral part of understanding medicine from experts in the medical field."

Dr. Bierma, a pediatrician at DuPage Medical Group, works with children who have genetic abnormalities; Bierma spoke to the Warriors about how their current genetic studies are applied in the medical field. He spoke of specific chromosomal and gene abnormalities, explaining how the conditions medically impact a person.

"Dr. Bierma's speech was one of the most interesting and intriguing speeches I have ever heard," says freshman Abigail Bencsik.

Students also partook in a Gel Electrophoresis lab to “fingerprint” DNA. Gel Electrophoresis is a biotechnology technique used to split the DNA of an organism into small fragments. Because each person has a slightly different DNA sequence, each individual’s DNA "splits” differently, making a unique “DNA fingerprint” for every organism.

"This is my favorite part of Biology," says freshman Elizabeth Bettenhausen.

The techniques completed by the students are the same techniques which are used in crime scene investigations, in identifying cancer genes and in the popular AncestryDNA tests.

The Warriors practiced the laboratory technique after analyzing the DNA of six male dolphins from the Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota, Florida; the Mote Marine Lab works in conjunction with the Brookfield Zoo bottlenose dolphins. Through the lab, students were able to identify which male dolphin was the father of a new calf.

“I enjoy seeing students make connections between the classroom and the ‘real world,’” says Horn. “The students love learning about real-life case studies from genetic research done at Brookfield Zoo…I am very passionate about genetics, as it is so applicable to people's lives in ways many do not even realize.”