Student Veterans Organization Donates Instructional DNA Kits to Department of Biology

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The Student Veterans Organization (SVO) at Southeast Missouri State University recently donated 20 instructional DNA kits to the Southeast Department of Biology.

The DNA kits provide the opportunity for students to visualize and manipulate a model of DNA, said Dr. Jennifer Weber, assistant professor of biology.

“After all, DNA is a three-dimensional molecule,” she said.

She and Dr. Rebeccah Kurzhals, associate professor of biology, have wanted to use DNA kits in the lab portion of Genetics courses at Southeast but until now, these materials were not available.

Weber added, “It’s incredibly generous, and we are just thrilled that the SVO is supporting our biology students with these efforts. Supporting our student veterans lies at the heart of our mission here at SEMO.”

The Student Veterans Organization celebrates their donation of DNA kits to the Department of Biology with biology faculty members Dr. Jennifer Weber and Dr. Rebeccah Kurzhals, center.

Weber said these types of materials provide hands-on, experiential learning that facilitates successful learning for a wide diversity of Southeast students.

“Here in biology we strive to make learning accessible to everyone and pride ourselves on excellent pedagogy. We are incredibly proud of our student veterans and want them to succeed here and beyond. That the SVO would work so hard to facilitate these efforts means the world to us,” Weber said. “We are looking forward to working with them more in the future.”

Amanda Woods, Military and Veterans Services officer and Veterans Administration certifying official, said the Student Veterans Organization made the decision to donate the kits to fill an unmet need.

“Southeast has been so supportive and encouraging of our populations that the students wanted to give back to others in need,” she said.

The kits will be used in classes and labs in areas such as genetics, cell and organismal biology, and evolutionary/ecology courses.

“A huge percentage of our (veteran) population makes up the STEM majors here, and when they saw the need, specifically with the biology department, they wanted to make a difference and provide hands-on learning opportunities for future students here at Southeast,” Woods said.

Dr. Jennifer Weber, left, and Dr. Rebeccah Kurzhals examine new DNA kits they will incorporate into coursework.

By making this donation, the SVO also wanted to bridge the gap between the military-affiliated population and other students on campus. Southeast’s military-affiliated population on campus makes up nearly 10 percent of the student body with 400 veterans and about 700 spouses and dependents.

Last spring, the SVO donated a free-standing model to the Department of Biology to be used as a larger instructional DNA module for use in the lecture portion of Southeast Genetics courses.

“Explaining the three-dimensional properties of DNA can be very difficult using only slides and worksheets. This model brings our teaching to a whole new level,” Weber said. “Now we can demonstrate how nucleotides are arranged to form a double helix, and this model even has material to show the differences between DNA and RNA. These and numerous other fundamental principles can be taught with this large model that can be seen by all the students in our larger lecture halls.”

The SVO also has donated science items for use in the community, including an atmosphere balloon kit to the Boy Scouts and a seismic device for monitoring earthquake activity to the Bollinger Mill State Historic Site and Museum.