SoapyCilantro: A Hands-On Introduction to Genomics 2021-2022 STEM Scale-Up Program
The SoapyCilantro project aims to address the lack of trained personnel in the area of genomics and precision medicine, the future of human health care. Using genomic concepts, the SoapyCilantro program demonstrates how minor differences in human genes can affect traits and how this applies to the area of precision medicine.
In this Iowa-grown program, students isolate and analyze their own DNA in the classroom. Students taste fresh cilantro leaves and note down the taste: Spicy, mild spicy or soapy. They collect their own buccal (cheek) cells, purify genomic DNA, amplify their gene responsible for cilantro taste and detect their genotype. Students correlate their genetic and taste-test results and discuss implications of genetic variations to human health using this innocuous ‘cilantro taste’ human trait.
The SoapyCilantro idea started as one of those Friday afternoon experiments which has now grown into a state-wide STEM scale-up program sponsored by the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council.
“This has been possible only because of the hard work of a few bright students in my laboratory and the financial support we received from the Iowa Space Grant Consortium to develop the curriculum and the companion kit for genomics education,” Dr. Pramod Mahajan, Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Science at Drake University said.
“As the world struggles to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, the need for facile and fun projects capable of attracting younger students to STEM education is felt even more acutely. Our SoapyCilantro project has that capability. I fervently believe, with additional support and time, this project will grow into a nationwide movement and fulfil that promise.”
Contact the team and find more information: https://www.drake.edu/cphs/soapycilantro/