Prison University Project’s (PUP) fall 2014 semester ended with 13 students gaining important knowledge and new appreciation for biology.
The biology course was collaborated and taught by professors Xan Chacko, Troy Lionberger, Ryan McGorty, Brock Roberts, Moe Turner, Diane Wiener, and Adam Williamson — all with different backgrounds in biology.
Throughout the course, students discussed basic biology topics that included information flow, cells, evolution, emergent properties and homeostasis.
Students were asked to form hypotheses and conduct experiments to test their theories. Students then were asked to present their independent projects in front of the class at the end of the semester.
Research topics from students included exploring multiple sclerosis (MS) on a cellular level, identifying whether left or right handedness is genetic, understanding consciousness, prisoners’ emotional mindset concerning love and romance, causations of drug addiction, stress and food addiction, environmental factors that cause breast cancer, dangers of human cloning, HIV, cognitive behaviors of domesticated dogs, depression on a cellular level, and inherited genetic factors of breast cancer that explain why specific ethnic groups are at greater risk than others.
PUP also provided a hands-on laboratory that included microscopy, statistical analysis, and discovery of organ function through dissection, according to the course schedule.
“Having a goal in biology helps us get to where we’re going faster. There’s a purpose and an end to this”
Student Danny Nha Ho said, “I have gained a great deal of understanding about information transmission, cells, evolution and human disease among other things,” he adds. “The hands-on laboratory experience observing biotic organisms under the microscope was beyond my expectations.”
The lab experiments involved DNA extraction from strawberries, along with dissecting sheep brains and cow eyes, and observing how light causes leaves to float or sink under the microscope.
Microscopy experimentation also looked at how sea urchins cells divided or didn’t divide during fertilization. “I saw the stage of an egg after the fertilization process forms its own ring to prevent other sperm from entering the egg,” said Ho.
“I am more aware of how close living organisms (bacteria, plants, animals, and humans) rely on one another to continue the cycle of life,” said Jerome Boone.
Eddie Herena was amazed at how much information is contained inside each cell. “A cell is as big as the universe,” said Herena. He added, “Having an understanding in biology deepened my interest in science and math.”
Biology gave him clarity and purpose in life, Carlos Flores said. “Having a goal in biology helps us get to where we’re going faster. There’s a purpose and an end to this.”