Biology, chemistry, technology… These were just a few of the concepts explored in Idea Swap’s Electrophoresis demonstration on Monday, 28 September. The half hour event took place in the Art Room at lunch, with around 15 students attending. Two members of the SciHigh program at Mount Sinai explained the process as they showed how to separate macromolecules. They also answered questions like “what exactly is going on inside that electrified vat of glowing jelly?”

Gel electrophoresis is a process used in biochemistry to separate and analyze DNA, RNA, and proteins based on their size and charge. An agarose gel (yes, similar to what’s used in Jell-O; no, they didn’t let us taste) is put into a buffer-filled box. It’s then run through an electric field from a power supply, so the DNA migrates from the negative end to the positive end. The proteins separate by size through the pores of the gel.

Jonathan and Fan from SciHigh illustrated these concepts in paper and then in real life. They passed around samples of DNA ladders and dyes to the students huddled around the table, and then turned on a UV light to better display what went on inside the machine. Although the turnout for the event was not very high, the students present were intrigued. According to some attendees, however, one of the downsides of the demonstration was that the results of the experiment were not very visible.

Electrophoresis 2

Presenters from SciHigh demonstrated gel electrophoresis. Photo: Jenna Wong

Idea Swap brings in guest speakers to present a variety of topics, giving students the opportunity to explore different fields of interest. President Dorothy Qian, Grade 12, tells us that “one of the major purposes of the club is to inspire students to come up with new ideas and innovate, so broad, diverse topics is a good way to do that. In terms of SciHigh specifically, we have been in touch with them for 2 years now, and they have been so supportive in offering science and biology talks for the club. And a technology-related topic with a mind-blowing demo is always a great way to start off the year!”

Interested in Idea Swap? You can find them meetings biweekly on Mondays in room 111, planning new projects, having discussion sessions, or listening to guest speakers. You can also check out their Facebook page here.