Wilton teen helps isolate new DNA sequences

Wilton resident Aulden Foltz helped isolate 18 original DNA sequences from the duckweed species Landoltia punctata.

Aulden, a junior at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N.J., was selected to participate in the three-week Waksman Student Scholars Program (WSSP) at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., during the 2013-14 year.

Aulden and two other Waksman Scholars from Lawrenceville isolated nine of the 18 Landoltia punctata DNA sequences through the program.

The other nine sequences were identified in Science Master Reem Hussein’s molecular biology class at the Lawrenceville School.

Centered around Landoltia punctata research, the WSSP is designed to help high school students learn molecular biology, genomics and bioinformatics through participation in scientific research projects and forums.

“What makes Waksman different from other science programs is that students are doing work that is actually useful,” said Aulden.

The species Landoltia punctata is considered scientifically important because of its potential to be used for both an alternative fuel source and remediate waste water.

Although “people might think it’s weird that we are sequencing duckweed,” Aulden said, “you don’t always know what you will find when you start your research.”

Ms. Hussein has participated in the Molecular Biology and Genomics Research program at Rutgers’ Waksman Institute for the past two years. She incorporated Wakman’s Landoltia punctata research project into her molecular biology research class curriculum at Lawrenceville.

Aulden served as a teaching assistant in the two-term molecular biology class, and said she enjoyed being able to help.

“It made me feel like I was helping Waksman fulfill its goal of having participants share what they learn through the program with other students,” said Aulden.

Ms. Hussein said she is proud of her students for their meaningful contributions to the world of science.

“I watched them have fun while grappling with some very complex problems,” she said. “It was priceless for all of us.”