GrowNextGen industry leader Zack Bateson presented a lesson on using bioinformatics in the classroom to about 30 people at the NSTA conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Bateson, lead research scientist at National Agricultural Genotyping Center, developed this lesson for GrowNextGen.

Using a scenario about soil trouble on a farm, participants worked through the process of submitting samples and reading results from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website which hosts a database of genetic sequences. DNA sequencing and bioinformatics are used to identify differences in the barcodes which are areas that help to identify specific species. BLAST, or Basic local alignment search tool, looks at specific pieces of a DNA sequence to find a match. Participants submitted five sequences and BLASTed them to identify what’s causing the farm’s soil trouble.

One teacher said that she “loved the simplicity of this DNA activity”—she plans to include it in their forensic unit. Another said “this is a perfect introductory activity for bioinformatics” for his biotechnology class.

Thanks to the generosity of GrowNextGen sponsor Ohio Soybean Council, teachers from all over the country had the opportunity to experience this great lesson and learn more about all that GNG has to offer!