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BC science students to put skills on display

Bogue Chitto Attendance Center’s scientists-in-training will beputting their laboratory skills on display for the public Thursdaymorning at the Biotech Initiative Symposium for SouthwestMississippi at Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s ThamesCenter.

The high school’s biomedical research class – the only one ofits kind in Mississippi – will conduct a hands-on presentation forvisitors shortly after 10 a.m. The presentation will be preceded byan hour-long presentation by four science and business speakers whowill explain the importance of biotechnology in high-tech economicdevelopment beginning at 9 a.m.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Admission is free.

“Anyone attending the symposium can gain a better understandingof what biotechnology is and the importance of providing ourstudents and community with the opportunity to be exposed tocutting-edge science,” said Bogue Chitto science teacher KathyMcKone.

McKone’s students will display the lab work they do every day inthe classroom and display their equipment – expensive tools not yetlocally owned. Before classes started this fall, McKone drove toFlorida A & M University in Tallahassee to borrow theequipment. She earned the right to borrow the equipment afterattending DNA workshops across the country.

Better Business Bureau of Mississippi President Bill Moak willaddress the symposium on the state’s attempts to recruitbiotechnological industries and how a technological presence in acommunity can attract new industries.

University of Mississippi Medical Center Professor of MedicineDr. Donna C. Sullivan will explain the benefits of biotechnology,and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and scienceprofessor Dr. Rob Rockhold will detail a fire ant research projectthat McKone’s class is working on with the assistance of theuniversity.

McKone will also speak on the implementation of the advancedbiomedical research class in Bogue Chitto’s curriculum. The classis in its first year of operation and has only seven studentsenrolled – mostly due to scheduling conflicts and graduationrequirements, McKone said.

However, she expects the class to grow in size, as it is alreadygrowing in popularity.

“Other students are seeing the biomedical research class workingin the lab and out collecting fire ants for our work, and they say,’I wish I had been able to take that class,'” McKone said.

The class is examining the DNA of fire ants collected on campusin search of the bacteria Wolbachia. McKone said the class had itssample ants test positive for the bacteria, and the next step wouldbe studying the ants in action to determine if the bacterium isparasitic or symbiotic.

Since it is the only class of its kind in the state, McKone saidher students are serving as the guinea pigs to help modify theresearch protocol.

“My students are trying to make this an easier-flowing class forany other school that implements it,” she said.