October 11th, 2017

Polk County High School students engage in space biology with Lab in a Box

Genes in Space™ has a new resource -  miniPCRTM Lab in a Box. Aimed at bringing hands-on models of space biology directly into classrooms, miniPCRTM Lab in a Box is a free equipment loan program for US educators. Through Lab in a Box, Genes in Space hopes to bring cutting-edge DNA science to more than 1,500 middle and high school students around the US this school year.

lab in a box

Lab in a Box kits ship complete with all the science hardware, reagents, software, and lesson plans needed complete a guided lab investigation relevant to space exploration. Loans are free to qualifying teachers, who can apply through the Genes in Space website. 

For the past two weeks, biotechnology students in Ms. Jennifer Allsbrook’s Introduction to Biotechnology class at Polk County High School in Columbus, North Carolina, have been conducting a hands-on DNA science lesson thanks to the first Lab in a Box kit. Ms. Allsbrook’s goals when applying for the program were to “expose students to laboratory equipment, protocols and DNA manipulation techniques” and to “show a unique application of the technology.”

Ms. Allsbrook's students prepare a PCR reaction.

Ms. Allsbrook's students prepare a PCR experiment.

Over the course of three lessons, Ms. Allsbrook’s students used authentic DNA analysis tools - the same technology available to astronauts aboard the ISS - to identify the source of contaminated food in a simulated outbreak of foodborne illness during a space mission. They also learned more about research conducted aboard the ISS National Lab and the Genes in Space contest. They even had their space biology questions answered by Genes in Space scientists through live video chat—another feature of the Genes in Space program is to tend a bridge between classrooms and scientists. Students benefitted by seeing how what they were learning in their biotechnology class could be applied to real-life situations and hopefully had some fun as well. Ms Allsbrook reports that students “realized the real-world applications of the technologies, protocols, and science process skills that they acquired during the activity.”


Ms. Allsbrook's students perform gel electrophoresis.

The second miniPCRTM Lab in a Box is currently in use by Ms. Marilu Pomeroy’s 8th grade science students at Saints Academy in Beverly, Massachusetts and more boxes are set to ship out in the coming weeks. 

The miniPCRTM Lab in a Box program is made possible by the generous contributions of Genes in Space partners and sponsors. 


Ms. Pomeroy brings DNA science to her students.

About Lab in a Box:

The miniPCRTM Lab in a Box program allows educators to request a 2 week loan of a miniPCRTM equipment kit to teach DNA analysis in their classroom.  

The kit includes:

More information can be found here. The request form is currently closed, but will re-open on November 1st for loan requests starting April 1st or later.

Posted in Educators, Lab in a Box.