Noor Lab Educational Outreach

Examples of Noor Lab Outreach:

– Tours of the laboratories to grade school students
– Presentations at on-campus grade school activities
– Presentations and demonstrations in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms
– Development of activities with funding from NSF Research Experience for Teachers program
– Presentations on activities at North Carolina Science Teachers Association Professional Development Workshop

Quick links to: 
Grade-school activity (associated materials)     
College activity (associated resources)

Grade-school level activity:

Witnessing Evolution First-hand: A K-12 Laboratory Exercise in Genetics and Evolution Using Drosophila. 
American Biology Teacher, 75: 116-119.
Caiti S S Heil, Brenda Manzano-Winkler, Mika J Hunter, Juliet KF Noor, and Mohamed AF Noor

Despite its fundamental importance to all of biology, the science of biological evolution has been under attack for decades, and Durham public schools are no exception. In the 2006 Durham school board election, an incumbent school member said at a public debate that evolution was "racist" and that she was strongly opposed to it being taught. 40% of respondents from a poll in an AP Biology class at Riverside High School said that evolution was not a proven fact- specifically answering that "no sort of evolution has clearly happened."

To address this deficiency, the Noor laboratory (in collaboration with Mika Hunter) developed a series of exercises wherein students observe evolution by natural selection in a fruit fly population. Working in pairs, students start with populations of white-eyed fruit flies but then add a single advantageous "mutant" red-eyed male. Over three generations, the red-eye trait spreads in the population, and the students observe this and quantify it.

Importantly, this observed spread is only the most basic element of this laboratory exercise. While observing it, the students learn about linkage and X-chromosome inheritance, and in some versions, they learn and "use" molecular biology protocols including PCR and gel electrophoresis. Hence, the demonstration is a launching point for learning many fundamental principles of evolution and genetics.

This exercise has been implemented now in multiple schools (middle schools, high schools, and even in introductory college courses). It was presented at the North Carolina Science Teachers Association Professional Development Institute conference and at the Society for the Study of Evolution annual conference. Further, Carolina Biological Supply sells a kit based on this activity, called the Natural Selection with Drosophila kit. Click here for associated materials.

College-level activity:

Witnessing phenotypic and molecular evolution in the fruit fly. 
Evolution: Education and Outreach, 5: 629-634. 
Authors: Caiti S S Heil,  Mika J Hunter, Juliet KF Noor, Kathleen Miglia, Brenda Manzano-Winkler, Shannon R McDermott, and Mohamed AF Noor

Building on the K-12 activity above, we have an advanced portion wherein students use standard molecular biology techniques like PCR and gel electrophoresis to witness the impact of a spreading red-eye allele in their experimental populations.  They amplify markers and see "hitchhiking" of alleles at markers near to, but not far from, the spreading red-eye allele.  This activity goes beyond the standard "let's do PCR" that is often done in introductory laboratories such that they still learn the technique, but with a lesson and "purpose" to it in mind.

Click here for associated materials.