Sapello Students Learn About DNA at HU

Carol Linder teaches elementary school students

Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Highlands biology professor Carol Linder works with Mike Mateo Sena Elementary student Catalina Gomez, 10, on a DNA experiment April 15 at Highlands.

Las Vegas, N.M. — Students from Mike Mateo Sena Elementary in Sapello, N.M. learned about their own DNA April 15 under New Mexico Highlands University biology professor Carol Linder’s tutelage.

Linder, a cell and reproductive biology scientist, gave the 4th and 5th graders a tour of her Reproductive Biology Laboratory before teaching them a DNA lesson, including isolating their own DNA from swabbing cheek cells. 

“For me, it’s really important to keep kids excited about science, and in the 4th and 5th grade they are still very curious about how things work,” Linder said. “I think it’s also important for young students to come to Highlands and think, ‘this is where I want to go.'”

“It’s fun to be working with DNA,” said Julian Torrez, 11. “I’ve been waiting to come to Highlands all week.”

Cassandra Crespin is the teacher for the combined 4th and 5th grade class at Mike Mateo Sena.

“Dr. Linder is very passionate about what she teaches, and that translates to the students, getting them excited about biology,” Crespin said. “This experience is very valuable and memorable for my students because they take what they’ve learned in a science book and bring it to life themselves. I really appreciate Dr. Linder sharing her knowledge with my class.”

Students from Linder’s upper-division cell and molecular biology class helped the Sapello students with their DNA experiment. Graduating biology senior Venetia Gonzales, 23, is in Linder’s class.

“It’s rewarding to help these young students learn about biology so they can focus on it in more depth,” Gonzales said. “Maybe someday they’ll decide to be scientists themselves.”

Linder’s longtime friend, Chad Boliek, 86, is a community science volunteer in Crespin’s class each week.

“Because this experience was so novel, they’ll never forget this day,” Boliek said. “You can tell how every child was into it today.”

Linder joined the Highlands University faculty in 2004 and established her Reproductive Biology Laboratory in 2005 with a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

She developed a mouse colony for her research, which focuses on male infertility.

Linder told the Sapello students: “Mice and humans share 97 percent of the same DNA. That’s why I use mice in my research.”

Linder completed a sabbatical at John Hopkins University in summer 2013, where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in a research-intensive environment, working side by side with other cell and reproductive biologists.