My Naked Scientists experience – specifically the sausage DNA sequencing - has come in very useful in my new role as a Postdoctoral Researcher for the 4273pi Bioinformatics Education project at the University of Edinburgh. The aim of our project is to create and deliver educational workshops for Scottish secondary school pupils that promote an understanding of bioinformatics and its relevance to the curriculum and beyond (e.g. health, food safety, scientific computing and Big Data).
Recently, I designed a workshop for biology pupils using the DNA sequences we found in the pork sausage. Pupils use a publicly-available DNA database and free online search software to discover that the sausage contains plenty of pig DNA (as one would expect in a pork sausage!) but also traces of lamb, chicken, cattle and human DNA. The human DNA is initially extremely surprising, but on reflection tiny traces are expected. Human DNA is found wherever there are humans. Humans made the sausage and prepared DNA samples from that sausage.