Waseda holds science workshop entitled “DNA illuminates Secret of Life” in Singapore

On January 26 and 27, Waseda University held the “Waseda Science Workshop in Singapore” at Waseda Shibuya Senior High School. About 100 students from local Singaporean junior and senior high schools, the Japanese School Singapore and Waseda Shibuya Senior High School participated in the workshop.

Local junior high school students learning about the phenomena of inheritance by asking: “Who and who do take after?”

Experimenting for the first time! Everyone was concentrating hard.

Thinking about the mystery of life through DNA

The workshop entitled “DNA illuminates Secret of Life” was Waseda University’s first ever science workshop conducted overseas under the theme of life science. Following a mini lecture about “gene” that determines the nature of human, participating students extracted DNA from their own body using oral epithelium cells, and then illuminated the DNA with a fluorescence dye solution.

Cheers arose from the students when they were looking at their own DNA which illuminated under ultraviolet rays. Additionally, they also examined their alcohol tolerance by conducting an alcohol patch test. Original teaching materials, two-dimensional puzzle pieces and three-dimensional models modeled after enzyme ALDH2 (aldehyde dehydrogenase 2) were specially designed for the workshop to aid visual learning. Using these materials, students were able to learn about the relationship between the structure, function and gene of actual protein.

Most participants from local schools learn Japanese as their third language. Mr. Tan Chyn Ngian, head of Japanese Department of the Ministry of Education Language Center (MOELC), expressed appreciation to Waseda University for organizing the workshop and thought it was a good stimulus for students. “There wasn’t any opportunity to participate in scientific experiments held in Japanese in the past. It was a valuable learning experiment,” said Mr. Tan.

The overall response of parents was positive, with one saying, “I am not good at science, but I was happy to have the chance to come in contact with science through this event,” and another, “the workshop reminded me of the excitement and curiosity of science.”

Waseda Shibuya Senior High School students providing guidance to local students.

Illuminating DNA under ultraviolet light after adding fluorescent dye solution.

Verifing the quality of the commercial meat – Food inspection using PCR analysis –

Students at Waseda Shibuya Senior High School had the chance to experience food inspection of mixed minced meat using PCR analysis. They determined the types of meat present in the mixed meat by extracting DNA from mixed meat samples, amplifying genes by PCR method and analyzing the PCR product using electrophoresis. At first, students had difficulty determining the actual types of meat present in the mixed minced meat by their appearance and smell, but were surprised when they could do so using the “illuminated” result of electrophoresis.

One of the teachers at Waseda Shibuya Senior High School said that “It was a good opportunity even for students who do not intend to major in science at university to develop an interest in science and Waseda University.”

Waseda Shibuya Senior High School students learning about genetic testing using examples they are familiar with.

First experience of electrophoresis with the support of staff.

We were able to successfully conduct this workshop thanks to not only the help of the technical staff and equipment from the Center for Science and Engineering, but also the support and cooperation from our overseas network (i.e. Waseda BioScience Research Institute in Singapore and Waseda Shibuya Senior High School). Moreover, we greatly appreciate our alumni working in Singapore, the Japanese School Singapore, and MOELC for their support on providing this special opportunity to further deepen interest in science in many students.

We believe that the experiences one earns during childhood by utilizing the senses of sight, hearing and touch would foster curiosity and interest in science, and someday become a huge strength for them in the future. One of our important missions is to contribute back to society by sharing Waseda’s knowledge to promising children and stimulating their intellectual curiosity through a series of science workshop.

Moreover, we aim to realize a Waseda University that plays a central role in promoting exchange with junior and senior high schools in Singapore, as well as strengthening partnership with Singapore’s research and educational institutions in the future.

Students listening attentively to the introduction of Waseda University.

A photograph filled with smiles and satisfaction at the end of workshop.

We hope that the participants would go on to become international students of Waseda University in the future, teach the beauty of science to young children through workshops, and become outstanding alumni that contribute to the development of the world. Passing down and spreading the joy of learning to the next generation—that is our vision for the future.

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