More Mesa high school students will get the chance to do genome research, thanks to a $300,000 award from the Science Foundation Arizona.
The money will expand a biomedical and genomic discovery project established at Mesa High School’s Biotechnology Academy last fall. Students will use bacterial genomes to identify and lab test all genes in amino acid biosynthesis, and they will have access to genome databases and electronic journals.
They will also be trained in basic genetics and bioinformatics.
The new money will enable students at four other Mesa Unified School District high schools — Dobson, Red Mountain, Mountain View and Westwood — to also take part in the projects.
The funds, given through the Science Foundation Arizona’s “K-12 Student and Teacher Discovery Program,” will sustain research for three years, as well as develop courses to train 24 teachers in how to lead genome research programs.
“We’re trying to up the bar of rigor in our agriscience and science classrooms, as well as the expectations of our students in general,” said Xan Simonson, the district’s biotechnology director. “I feel this is a missing component in the majority of classrooms.”
The program will operate through partnerships with The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Mesa Community College and ASU’s Polytechnic campus.
Science Foundation Arizona is a nonprofit organization formed last year by three statewide CEO groups. It received $35 million in funding from the Legislature to invest in science, engineering and medical research, as well as education programs in those fields.
The Mesa district’s proposal was one of nine chosen for awards throughout the state.