BIG RAPIDS – Restlessly waiting for the DNA to finish heating, 23 high school students fidgeted with the instruments laid atop the polished, black laboratory tables in Ferris State University’s Science Building. They followed their instructor with excited and interested eyes as he paced the front of the room. A criminal, he explained, was afoot – and with the help of forensic evidence, it would be up to them to figure out who he was.
Participating in one of Ferris’ week-long summer camps, the students, hailing from across Michigan, will spend the majority of their time this week in a second floor biology lab exploring the vast world of biotechnology.
“The students who come here have very different backgrounds in science – some may have no background at all – but we welcome them and want to get them interested in it, and particularly interested in biotechnology,” said camp coordinator and instructor, and Ferris associate professor of Biology, Bradley Isler.
These students, who live in on-campus residence halls during their stay, learn assorted lab techniques and a variety of lab procedures. Such procedures include DNA fingerprinting, dabbling in forensic biology, cloning and identifying genes, experimenting with recombinant DNA and studying microorganisms – a few of which they gather themselves.
“The microbiology labs have been my favorite so far,” Clarkston High School senior Erin Mueller said. “We’ve been culturing bacteria that we’ve collected, which has been the best part because we got to go out and swab different surfaces in the school.”
Midland High School senior Jen Hopkins agreed. “I like it because you get to do your own work,” she said. “In high school, you have to work in groups of four or five, but here, you can do experiments on your own. I’m really interested in biology, and I really wanted to get a taste of the college experience; it’s been fun and definitely worth it.”
Isler said, “A lot of students who come to camp think that when they graduate from high school they have to go to a big research institution because those are the only places with biotech work. But, places like Ferris actually have a lot of cool stuff going on. Plus, they can get personal attention from faculty.
“These camps give them a chance to see what they could experience at Ferris in the biotech program. It’s nice to get them excited about science, but it’s even nicer to get them excited about science at Ferris; it’s a very good place to go to college,” he added.
For more information on Ferris summer camps, contact Adam Wetherell, coordinator of Camps and Conferences, at (800) 562-9130 or (231) 591-5824.