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HRA Brings Real-Life Scientific Research into the Classroom

HRA students have the opportunity to learn hands-on science processes by participating in groundbreaking scientific research. Six current Upper School Navigators are part of the University of Vanderbilt’s research study, The Wolbachia Project. A bacterium found in many arthropods, Wolbachia is capable of disrupting the reproductive cycle of many viruses, including  Zika and dengue. Led by HRA senior Alexandra Gendreau, students will collect and identify insects, extract and amplify their DNA, and use gel electrophoresis to detect the presence of Wolbachia in different species. The goal of this project is to contribute new scientific data on the role of Wolbachia in arthropods.
Alexandra learned how to use the biotechnology tools needed for this study as part of a summer internship at Christopher Newport University. She heard about the project through the science department at HRA and knew immediately that she wanted to make it her senior project. Under the guidance of Mrs. Becky Deeley, Alexandra asked for volunteers interested in participating in the research project. After a few weeks of collecting insects, students met on November 3rd to start the identification process. Using a Vanderbilt University resource, they identified and tagged the insects for DNA extraction. During the next few weeks, Alexandra will train students to use a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine and gel electrophoresis equipment to extract and detect the presence of the bacterium. She hopes to motivate and inspire students to engage in nature and real-world research. After completion of this project, HRA faculty will introduce the project to more students as part of the science curriculum.