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In the sprawling complex of high-tech labs, researchers diligently tamper with DNA. Others apply precise computer programs to reconfigure the tiny, complicated strands. New Basha High science teacher Sharon New is spending her summer here, at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, so she can bring back to her classroom some of the most rigorous course work available for high school students.
For six weeks this summer, the Chandler Unified instructor became the first public school teacher to intern with Professor Hao Yan, sitting where her students will this fall – behind desks, lab tables and computers. “This is about bringing the cutting-edge research back to my classroom,” New said. She has been learning about one of the fastest-growing scientific fields, nanotechnology, and how the microscopic particles can be applied to such fields as medicine.
New will offer her students a course called Introduction to Biotechnology, which the teens will be able to take for college credit through Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Biodesign Institute researchers offered New one of the first internships for educators this year. The institute’s high school student program has grown from 16 students last year to 24 this summer. “I’ve been working on DNA origami computer manipulations,” said Alex Brown, 17, who will be a senior at Central High School in Phoenix. “The two DNA strands come together like a zipper.”
The Biodesign Institute opened four years ago on ASU’s Tempe campus. The first two of four interconnected buildings, which will eventually have a total research space of 800,000 square feet, have been built. Professors strive to get students excited about science and help them develop the skills needed for science careers. “This place has equipment that my school does not have, so it has been great,” said Brown who wants to become a science researcher. continue reading