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Publish Date: Oct. 10, 2023

Students in lab

Anthropology Professor Cheryl DiBartolo believes science is for everyone. 

So, when it came down to lesson planning for the Fall 2023 semester, DiBartolo decided to set up a one-day lab in her classroom where anthropology students could learn how to extract DNA from common organisms, such as strawberries, using common household items like water and dishwashing liquid.

The DNA Extraction Lab took place on Aug. 28, for students enrolled in Crafton’s Biological Anthropology Class to learn how DNA plays a key role in genetics and the process of evolution in a hands-on setting.

“This is a fairly simple experiment and something that I hope students will share with their families at home,” DiBartolo explained. “My main focus [of this lab] is for students to realize that science can be done by everyone, and sometimes with very simple household products like we will be using today.”

DNA is defined as a “molecule that carries genetic information for the development of a functioning organizing,” according to the National Human Gnome Research Institute, and helps us understand how an organism is developed, survives, and reproduces.

The DNA Extraction Lab had tools and materials necessary to complete each experiment. Each lab participant got step-by-step instructions and were even able to pick up DNA with their bare hands to observe its texture, temperature, and consistency. Students were then tasked with recording their findings for later observations.

While Crafton has offered various anthropology courses on campus for years, by hosting the lab and future events, DiBartolo hopes to spark additional curiosity about her discipline.

“My hope for this class is that students walk away with some valuable insight into what makes us human,” she explained. “Anthropology is the study of what it means to be human, and so although this class fulfills a needed laboratory science credit that students can use toward graduation and transfer, I hope it also sparks some interest in anthropology in general. 

“Our college is so supportive of the anthropology program and our endeavors to expand,” she continued. “Whether you are interested in a career in anthropology or are just curious about the topics we cover, we have something for everyone. We are constantly making new discoveries in the field that fine tune our understanding of human evolution. There’s so much to explore. Come join us.”