Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Serra High Students Will Be Published Scientists

For a scientist, being named as a participant in a project published in a peer-reviewed journal is a professional requirement. It's also something that might not happen until the scientist has been working in their field for several years.

But more than 30 high school students at Serra High School will be skipping forward in their careers, becoming published scientists before they've even graduated from high school.

Members of the biotechnology program at Serra, the students have helped advance a project that is researching how species are impacted by environmental decay. Starting last February, students analyzed the COI gene, a portion of the DNA, in 20 Channel Islands species. Their work is being submitted for inclusion in the Barcode of Life Data Systems project, which hopes to establish a planetary DNA database. This lead to a visit to the Coastal Marine Biolabs in Ventura, which is publishing a study on the results of the tests. This study will include the names of all the Serra students who participated.

"Many scientists have to wait until their careers have advanced before they become published," said Dr. Ericka Senegar-Mitchell, Serra's biotechnology teacher. "Having high school students named in a study published in a peer-reviewed scientific platform is outstanding and will aide them every step up the educational and professional ladder."

Serra's biotechnology program gives students an early look at what could be their life's work. Students have access to state-of-the-art equipment to learn about the basic building blocks of life. Many of San Diego's top biotechnology firms donate equipment and other supplies to the program, which gives students and advanced look at the sciences they might take at a university.

During Spring Break, 10 students and Dr. Senegar-Mitchell, traveled to Coastal Marine Biolabs in Ventura Harbor, where they worked with research scientists who are cataloging species DNA for the study. They helped investigate how biodiversity loss is a result of habitat destruction, invasive species, population expansion, pollution, and overharvesting.

 "This program gives students a real chance to see this type of research in action," said Dr. Senegar-Mitchell. "Part of our job as teachers is to expose our students to as many opportunities as possible. Marine research is a very important part of this field."

For more information on the program, contact Dr. Senegar-Mitchell at

About the School

Located in the Tierrasanta neighborhood, Serra High School is a comprehensive high school with a tradition of excellence. It offers students a wide variety of programs, from high-tech, cutting edge programs such as biotechnology, to career-technical education, to athletics and marching band. Serra is the center of the community and receives outstanding support from its foundation and neighbors.