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Grant Supports LHS Science Education

Student and teacher use science equipment in classroom.

Students in Sandra Miller’s AP Biology class at Lancaster High School are using new equipment to get a fresh look at their classwork and themselves as they study their own DNA to examine the molecular differences that impact their sense of taste.   

“I’ve taught about this concept for years, but I’ve never had the equipment for it,” said Mrs. Miller, a teacher in the Lancaster Central School District for 20 years. 

The new student laboratory lesson is possible thanks to a $4,774 STEM grant from the Toshiba America Foundation, which provided a MiniOne centrifuge, PCR system and Gel Electrophoresis materials to complete a Taste of Genetics Lab project. The foundation said their grants support projects designed by teachers, and goes toward equipment for hands-on experiments and inquiry-based approaches to the curriculum. 

Mrs. Miller said this approach to studying DNA makes a difference. 

“They seem really excited,” she said. “This is a valuable experience that most won’t have before going to college.”

During the class experiment, students collected DNA from their saliva and cheek cells, giving them the chance to observe the molecular differences in people that can and cannot taste the bitterness in paper with PTC, short for phenylthiocarbamide. The DNA is then replicated over multiple days by students using the new PCR system and centrifuge, then run through the gel electrophoresis process. The process analyzes and visualizes the components of the mixture to show the specific gene that alters their taste ability.

Students eagerly prepared their samples as they moved through their lesson.

“It’s a lot more real than just watching a video,” said Madison Burns, a Lancaster High School senior. “It’s really exciting.” 

The new technology required the students and teacher to collaborate, whether in discussing the science behind the new equipment, or in using the mobile applications linked to the technology.

“We went into this with an outlook of ‘Let’s learn together,’” Mrs. Miller said. 

More information about the grant can be found at

 A student smiles as she holds up science materials in classroom.

A student looks at a container in a classroom

A student uses new lab equipment in a classroom

Teacher Sandra Miller poses for a photo wearing goggles