Wasatch Junior High School, Granite District\ THE EVENTClass: Linda Beisel's biology students

Subject: Science and medicine

Number of students: 27

Beisel's students visited the University of Utah Medical Center and the Howard Hughes genetics center for a quick overview of the options available to people interested in careers in science and medicine.

THE SCHOOL\ Location: 3750 S. 3100 East

Students: 856 students in grades seven, eight and nine\ Number of teachers: 35

Principal: Darryl W. Thomas

School district: Granite


The teacher hopes the students learned:

Beisel said she wanted her students to recognize how many career opportunities exist in science. The young people visited the University Hospital's magnetic resonance imaging department, the neonatal care area where premature infants receive high-tech nurturing and the emergency room.

At the Hughes genetics center auditorium, the students heard a talk by Mark Leppert, who described the work scientists in the center are doing to try to map human genes.

"In research, nothing is black and white," he said. "There are many gray areas of unknown information." The push for better understanding of the human genome will take many years and large sums of money, he said. The work was initiated with a debate about how that time and effort relate to other problems the United States faces.

In response to a question by student Matt Garriott, Leppert said scientists might be doing mankind a disservice to "create the perfect man." Variability in humans is important, he said. Cheetahs, which have limited genetic variability, in fact, may become extinct because they don't have enough diversity, he said.

While there are billions of human genes, scientists are most concerned with locating those that cause disease. The U. has pinpointed the location of the gene that causes Elephant Man's disease, for instance, generating hope that victims of the disfiguring genetic malady can be helped.

The students visited the genetics labs, hearing talks by scientists involved in gene mapping. Bob Weiss explained the sophisticated technology being used to separate genes into their basic components so they can be studied.

The students say they learned:

"I think the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) was the most interesting thing we saw," said David Stoker, a ninth-grader. "They showed us pictures of images made by the machine."

For another student, Beaver Uipi, the visit to the university added fuel to a debate for which she was preparing. She asked Leppert's perceptions of the long-standing nature/nurture argument. Leppert took a middle ground, explaining that each human inherits some personality traits, but those traits are influenced by circumstances of upbringing and environment. Beaver happily added the expert's position, which supported her side of the debate, to her arsenal of arguments. The Deseret News will publish weekly a feature on school activities. Call Chuck Gates, 237-2100.