Biotech Day Returns to WF West High School


By Matthew Zylstra / [email protected]

WF West High School saw the return of Biotech Day on Wednesday after a years-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was smaller than in pre-pandemic years, consisting of about 30 first-year advanced biology students and about 15 chemistry, molecular genetics, and advanced molecular genetics students. In the past, the event was held in a gymnasium and was attended by area schools. This year it included only Chehalis students.

According to Wendy Neal, who teaches advanced chemistry and molecular genetics at WF West High School and is the teacher leading the event, this year’s Biotechnology Day was the school’s 23rd.

According to Neal, the event centers around college students trying to solve a fictional crime with a story developed by the Advanced Molecular Genetics class. This year’s advanced molecular genetics class, which consists of three seniors, made a video which the students watched in the morning before being presented with the DNA of three individuals: a victim (played by Neal) and two suspects. The participating freshmen then attempted to solve the mystery of the perpetrator using genetics.

Ryan Witham, a senior in the advanced molecular genetics class, said he studied molecular genetics last year as a junior and wanted to continue in the advanced class because he wanted to do a research project. research and help out at Biotech Day this year.

“We had to start from scratch. We have to create everything by ourselves. I think that was the biggest challenge, but also part of the fun… It’s super easy to make a pie, but showing someone how to make it is very different,” said Witham, who will be traveling to Boise State next year to study sports medicine. .

“I wish I could have organized Biotechnology Day (as younger students). It would have been fun,” said Claire Kuykendale, another senior in the advanced molecular genetics class who will be attending Gonzaga University next year to study physiology and hopes to become a physical therapist. “It was really cool to use all the scientific equipment that the Chehalis Foundation bought for us. We have to be a lot more creative with that.

“The Biotech Day was useful in explaining things better. It definitely helped me improve,” added Kuykendale.

Amelia Etue, also a senior in the Advanced Molecular Genetics class, said she had always been interested in STEM – an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math – and attending WF West gave her opportunity to pursue this interest.

“The programs we have at WF West are so, so cool. I have always been drawn to STEM. It’s a great opportunity,” said Etue, who also works with the school’s scanning electron microscope.

“I want to do things other than research, I don’t want to be sitting in a lab and stuff, I want to be able to make a difference as soon as possible,” said Etue, who will be attending California State Polytechnic. University next year and plans to get a degree in biochemistry.

“For Biotech Day, I was looking forward to organizing the post-COVID event. Especially with the kids who have missed so much, especially with exciting STEM projects. We have been working for a solid few months. I wrote the manual and I organized it. I did some spreadsheets. It was a lot more organized than it looks… It’s awesome. It’s really everywhere and exciting. Everyone is running everywhere. It was really awesome,” Etue added before having to start helping another student again.

Cameron Sheets, a senior molecular genetics junior who helped a group of freshmen figure out how to run their tests, agreed with those sentiments.

“It was really fun,” Sheets said. “I like to show everyone the tools. They understood very quickly and it was cool to see them learn.

Amit Rai, a junior studying molecular genetics, also said he had fun.

“I’ve never done this before,” Rai said. “My cousin is in my band so it’s been pretty cool working with him. …(As a molecular genetics student) I helped with the loading dye and helped them prepare for next year and the next biotech day.

Madyson Alexander, a freshman in advanced biology, had a lot of fun at the event.

“We learned about genetics and DNA, then moved on to another unit, then came back yesterday,” Alexander said. “About a month ago a medical examiner came and talked about these exact things to some of the students at the school, and I went there with a couple of my friends. It really helped me to interested in it more, so it was really cool to do it (myself).

The students also had the chance to hear from a professor from the University of Washington. Sarah Li, a fifth-year doctoral candidate from Canada, spoke to the students about game theory and its applications to autonomous machines.

During his lecture at the WF West Theater, Li discussed how game theory, a mathematical concept related to choice, correlates with innovations such as self-driving cars and drones for companies such as Amazon. She also touched on the topics of traffic and fireflies.

“I really wish I could have listened to this lecture. It would have been really interesting to learn more,” said Alyssa Howlett, a junior in the molecular genetics class who helped with the setup while freshmen attended. at the conference.

“It was great fun having it (Biotech Day) again. I learned all of this in molecular genetics and it was fun to see how others learned it. I became a teaching assistant in elementary school in the first semester, which helped me a lot to prepare myself to help younger students. I want to be a teacher, so it was a very good experience… It was really fun. We went through the steps slowly and steadily and they figured it out after a little while,” Howlett added.

The organizers hope that BioTech Day will be able to invite students from other schools again in the future.

“Biotech Day is a strong tradition and we know we want to bring that back. But in what context, we don’t know yet,” said science teacher Krista Wilks. “We are still figuring it out and rebuilding within our own school and department… These kids have done a really good job having never experienced this before. I think it was a very good day.


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