Genetics topic of Middle School Science Cafe

Alumna Kristin Voldan '97 recently paid a visit to the Thayer Academy Middle School Science Cafe and highlighted the incredible variety of outcomes to be found in genetics. 
A geneticist (more specifically, a molecular genetics data analyst), Voldan ate lunch with more than a dozen students before explaining a little about what she does for a living. 
"I analyze people's DNA, looking for variations for people getting tested for hereditary cancers," Voldan said. 
For an activity, Voldan handed envelopes to student groups. Each envelope contained strips of paper "genes" that corresponded to certain dog traits such as long hair, short tail, droopy ears, and the like. Choosing randomly, student groups created a "dog genome" and then drew their particular dog creations. As expected, the dogs ran the gamut in terms of style and size. 
To keep things simple, Voldan assigned one trait per gene for her exercise, but she also told the students that real genetics is much more complicated than that. She also told the class that there are approximately 22,000 genes in the human genome. 
"Just think of all the combinations, all the possible differences in humans," Voldan said. 
Created by Middle School science teacher Natalie Young, the purpose of the Science Cafe is twofold: celebrate women in science while showing students the interesting careers to be found in STEM-related fields. 
The Thayer Middle School Science Cafe program will continue with these remaining presenters: 

2/25: Kathleen Regan (Naturalist)
3/27: Daniella DiCarlo (Physician's Asst.)
4/16: Dr. Britt Pena '94 (Pediatrician)

Students will have the opportunity to sign up a week before the presentation. Space is limited to 15 students.  
The program is also looking for new presenters in the field of physical sciences. If you know of anyone who works in the chemical or physical sciences field who may be interested in participating, please contact Young at

Thayer Academy Science Cafe
Students at the Thayer Academy Middle School Science Cafe with MS science teacher Natalie Young and visiting alumna Kristin Voldan '97.