In the spirit of the Wisconsin ideas, Dr. Zhong and members of her lab actively participate in education and scientific outreach programs at the undergraduate students and K-12 students.
Wisconsin Youth Apprenticeship Program (YAP)
YAP was developed by the State of Wisconsin and supervised locally by the Dane County School Consortium. The program is to provide hands-on research experience for high school students interested in a career in biology. Currently, Yang Chen (female), from La Follette High School is working in the lab.
Hosting Tabletop Science Exploration Station for K-12 Students
In collaboration with the Discovery outreach program led by WARF and the Morgridge Institute, the Zhong lab hosted a tabletop exploration station module for K-12 students. The model was built by using a wire (representing DNA) and foam cutouts (representing nucleosomes) to demonstrate the roles of chromatin compaction and loosening in repressing and activating gene expression, respectively. We also organized a “choose-your-own-adventure style” game that allowed the students to make normal lifestyle choices (e.g. exercising or healthy eating) and see the consequences of their actions on their hypothetical epigenomes. A primary goal for this activity is to use this simple DNA-histone model to teach students the importance of their lifestyle choice on the expression of their genes.
Organizing Fieldtrips for Middle School Students
In collaboration with the Discovery outreach team and science teachers from local middle schools, the Zhong lab participated a fieldtrip focusing on epigenetics. A primary goal is to bring middle school students to the classroom to learn about the basic concepts of genetics and epigenetics.
Developing Summer Science Camp for High School Students
In collaboration with the Discovery outreach team, we developed and participated a plant epigenetics summer science camp. A primary goal is to provide “hands-on” experience to enhance learning and to develop creative problem-solving skills for high school students.
Our activities focused on DNA methylation analysis in Arabidopsis. The students first examined and recorded the phenotype differences. They then extracted genomic DNA from these plants and digested the isolated DNA with McrBC, a methylation sensitive restriction enzyme that only cuts methylated cytosines. The genomic DNA region without DNA methylation is resistant to McrBC digestion and thus is amplified through PCR.
Graduate student Dean Sanders is teaching epigenetics to summer camp high school students from rural Wisconsin.