Parent, employer donates DNA technology to Federal Way school district

FWPS - Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools
— image credit: Courtesy Federal Way Public Schools

Student scientists in each comprehensive high school in the Federal Way school district will have the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art new DNA technology beginning next year.

The new equipment, valued at $330,000, comes to the district, thanks to a donation from Decatur parent Patrick Bronson-Doherty and his employer, Qiagen Sample and Assay Technologies.

Interim Superintendent Sally McLean thanked Bronson-Doherty and Qiagen for the donation at a board meeting on June 24.  “Patrick Bronson-Doherty has been a tireless advocate for science learning in Federal Way for many years,” McLean said. “He has been searching for a way to bring modern, real-life molecular biology technology into our classrooms to give our students the opportunity to experience science as it is being done in labs today.”

The new equipment includes a machine to isolate DNA (QIAcube), a real-time PCR machine (Rotor Gene Q), and an automated capillary electrophoresis instrument for sample analysis (QIAxcel). District science teachers recently held a workshop to plan for how the new technology will be used in classrooms beginning next year.

During the workshop, teachers practiced DNA fingerprinting experiments using DNA from cheek cell samples. Science teachers hope to eventually use the equipment in all high school science courses, said Megan Walker, a district science teacher on special assignment. Staff is currently working to develop labs and lessons using the new technology. The district is also working to develop partnerships with scientists in the area.

“Because of Patrick Bronson-Doherty’s efforts, Federal Way students will have access to technology that most students don’t encounter until graduate school, if then,” McLean said. “They will be able to tackle problems that are relevant to their lives and to current scientific research, to see how science is being done, and to see themselves as scientists and engineers, opening up doors to growing and stable future STEM careers. This donation represents a huge boost to our district’s high school science program, and we are extremely grateful to Qiagen and Patrick for their time, energy, and generosity.”


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