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Teachers find DNA and inspiration in summer program

White coats and all, the gene sleuths are at it. On this hot July morning, the researchers are hunched at lab benches in 103 Schultz. Test tubes lean in mounds of ice. Nimble fingers are grasping pipettes at angles and pumping slippery stuff from flask to petri dish. There's a low, happy chatter in the room.

These 23 vacationing science teachers, who could be anywhere, have chosen to be in this room at Princeton University where they are learning to extract DNA from corn chips, cheese puffs and other forms of exotic cuisine. Their quest for today? To seek out a specific strand of genetic material that is characteristically found in genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Can a soy dog contain GMOs? This group wants to know.

These men and women from places as diverse as Jersey City, N.J., and Lexington, Ky., are here to learn the most modern techniques available for studying the principles of molecular biology. The two-week program, sponsored by Princeton's Department of Molecular Biology and funded by a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, is designed to help them return to school with a new vision of how to teach science.

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