December 10, 2007: High school sleuths learn CSI skills at Cap College workshops

      Monday, December 10, 2007
      Shelley Kean, Public Affairs Manager, Capilano
      Office: 604.983.7596
      Cell: 604.868.4374

      (NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C.)—More than 200 Lower Mainland high school sleuths will be hot on the DNA trail of a killer this week at Capilano College’s North Vancouver campus during a series of Genome B.C.-sponsored Geneskool on the Road workshops.

      And while the homicide they’re investigating is fictional, the secondary school biology students from Burnaby, Vancouver, Mission, Richmond and Delta will employ the same techniques and equipment used on the popular TV crime drama, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

      “The kids just have a ball at these events,” says Capilano lab convener, Ann Meitz, herself a huge CSI fan, who sat in at the college’s Geneskool workshops last April and is one of three facilitators for the fully booked day-long sessions running Dec. 11 - 14.

      “They do DNA extraction from fruit, as opposed to real crime-scene DNA. But they use the same genetic fingerprinting tools that forensics and biotech labs work with,” says Meitz.

      The participants are divided into teams, introduced to crime details and suspects, and given blood-test results from a biochemical process called enzyme linked immuno-sorbent assay, or ELISA, that help narrow the suspect pool. Crime-scene fingerprints help investigators narrow the field even further, to a level at which real detectives could obtain a warrant to collect suspect deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) samples.

      The teams use a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) process to artificially amplify the microscopic DNA snippets and gel electrophoresis to separate the material from other molecules. They then stain the results, which are visually represented in a now-familiar series of parallel bands in order to analyze and compare the genotypes of suspect and crime-scene DNA.

      When the culprit’s DNA is finally revealed, many of the students “are totally surprised,” says Meitz, “because the person they initially suspected didn’t do it.”

      The workshops will run again in April 2008. For more information, contact Marja de Jong Westman at 604.986.1911, local 3478, or e-mail


      Marja de Jong Westman
      Capilano College Biology instructor
      : 604.986.1911, local 3478

      Catherine Anderson
      Genome Education Specialist
      Phone: 604.738.8072

      Julia White
      Communications Officer
      Genome British Columbia
      : 604.637.4378