When I tell people I volunteer at the ROM’s DNA laboratory they are surprised. Not because I’m volunteering at the ROM, but because they are unaware of the fantastic work that goes on behind the scenes at the ROM.
My name is Christine Black and I’m in grade 12, and since September 2012, I have been lucky enough to meet some amazing genetic scientists who work at the ROM. In particular, I have been working with Oliver Haddrath and Kristen Choffe, who have taught me how to use a pipette, sequence DNA, and use a PCR machine, all while being patient and informative.
I have learned about the connections between the Moas, an extinct species of flightless birds, and Tinamous, a current species of birds who can fly, while running part of the Moa’s mitochondrial DNA through a gel. I have been able to apply the information I learned during biology class, which has solidified my understanding of DNA and the techniques that are used to analyze it.
The work that is done at the lab is amazing, and each time I talk to another scientist about his or her work, the enthusiasm is tangible. This experience has not only taught me lab skills, but it has opened my eyes to the work that I could one day be doing. I’ve found a love for DNA and genetics here, and I hope that I will be able to work in a lab similar to the one at the ROM in order to discover more of the amazing things about DNA.