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DNA Project Aims to Expand Lab Teaching

Hoping to expand the scope of biotechnology education in Southern California high schools, Amgen is sponsoring the sixth annual Plasmid Fusion Laboratory Workshop for science teachers.

The free workshop, taught by Newbury Park High School science teacher Hugh Nelson, will train educators to stage a three-week mobile laboratory project for their own classrooms. “This is an incredible experience,” Nelson said. “This is current science, and it is the same process that is being used at Amgen to manufacture pharmaceuticals.”

In 1990, Amgen recruited Nelson to develop the laboratory procedures and write instructions for students. The project has grown to include three mobile lab kits that circulate among schools throughout Southern California.

About 80 teachers at 36 high schools participate in the project, which serves about 3,000 students every year.

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The program, which has been in place at six Ventura County high schools, focuses on two methods to clone DNA.

Teachers who attend the workshop will learn the principles of gene cloning, the operation of the mobile laboratory hardware and the skills needed to model current genetic engineering practices.

Amgen officials have said that funneling energy, equipment and money into the course is one way to ensure that bright young people keep coming into the biotechnology field.

The workshop will be at Newbury Park High School on Sept. 14 and 15. High school science teachers who would like to register for the workshop should contact Nelson at 498-8663.

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