Posts in: Block 2

Connecting Through Art and Our Exhibition – Faces, Places, and Spaces: An Exploration of Identity

As I walked into the Fine Arts Center with my parents, I beamed with pride. It was like giving them a tour of my second home, as I have grown to feel comfortable in a place I previously found intimidating. I led my dad, who majored in Art History, and my mom to our exhibition, and I could answer most of their questions about the objects we passed in addition to pointing out objects I found interesting. Then I had the pleasure of showing them the room I have spent the past two blocks creating. I finally could share the product of so much hard work with them, and I was so excited. Making the experience even better, they were clearly so impressed and so proud. As a girl who had little to no previous knowledge of art or anything that went into curating an exhibition, I was proud of me, too. I explained the piece I was responsible for, as well as other pieces I found interesting. Since our exhibition centered on identity, it felt fitting to talk to my parents about how my childhood had shaped the way I examined Nostalgia Baggage, focusing on the Pez wrapper and the fishing fly as those evoke memories I hold close. My dad and I discussed Native Lands, commenting on its unusual frame that adds to the work in a unique way. Similarly, I was able to give him context for some of the other images of indigenous peoples in the exhibit. The ability to connect with him on this new level is something I am incredibly grateful for, and it is just one of the gifts this class and this experience has given me.

One Day Before the Exhibition

It is the third week of the second block now—and I can hardly believe how quickly time has flown! The opening of our class exhibition at the Fine Arts Center at Colorado College is just around the corner. During the last 10 days, we have been working on the didactic labels for each artwork and the wall text for the whole exhibition. Coming up with a ‘perfect’ 300-word label is indeed more complicated than I thought it would be.

To start this phase of the project, Jessica, the curator for the UnBlocked Gallery, came to class last week and gave us a working session on how to write the didactic label. With the help of guidelines and label examples, we began to draft our own by researching our artists’ backgrounds, analyzing the artworks, and exploring their connections with the theme of our exhibition: identity. After peer review, another gallery visit, professor comments, and reading them aloud, our didactic labels eventually made it to the final draft after revising a couple of times. It is amazing to see our labels printed and mounted on the wall! I used to visit the public galleries without paying much attention to the wall text or the arrangement of artworks on the wall. The wall paint, frames, labels and wall texts: I took the entire set-up at galleries for granted. However, after taking part in an exhibition-curating task myself, I realized that everything in the gallery is the result of curators’ attentive design and hard work.

In addition to the exhibition preparation, our art history lecture in class has moved on to Impressionist paintings and modern art. As our class approaches the end, it’s amazing to look back and see how far we have come through the history of western art—from the pre-historic period all the way to modern times. As this was my first class on the block plan, it has been quite surprising to see how much progress we made in just eight weeks. This FYE class has not only taught me a lot about art, but it has also helped me to adapt to the special block plan schedule at CC.

The Art is Up!

After all of our discussions and planning, our chosen works of art are officially up in the UnBlocked Gallery! I was anxious to see how it all turned out, especially because it was set up while we were away on Block Break. Our class stopped by to see how everything turned out, and it was amazing to see how our ideas translated into a real space! Seeing all of the works in real life rather than in a two-dimensional picture completely changed how I thought about each of them. I was able to see so many small details that I had missed before, and the texture and feeling of each object was much more accessible to me when I was able to stand directly in front of a work. Despite our best efforts, we couldn’t fit everything into the space. Planning it on the floor of our classroom was much different than actually seeing the objects together in real life because the reproductions we had been working with were not printed to scale. Many objects that we chose were much bigger than we expected, so we were forced to really think about which pieces we wanted to include. Because of the limited space, certain works had to be cut, and we were left with those objects that really emphasized what we wanted the viewer to think about when experiencing our exhibition.

Even though we didn’t get to include everything that we had hoped, I was glad that we came across this obstacle. It taught me so much about the job of an art curator. Before taking this class, I had not given much thought to how much work goes into putting an exhibition together, but our professor, Victoria, and Jessica Hunter-Larsen of the FAC Museum at CC, have shown me that it is actually a very complex process. Each object not only plays its own role within the exhibition, but it also affects how the viewer will think about all of the works positioned around it. Because of that, our class had to think very carefully about how these art objects would speak to one another if we put them close together and whether the message that we created with a particular arrangement supported the theme of our exhibit. Thus, we had to consider where in space we wanted to situate the works and how this arrangement would affect the viewer’s understanding of the composition. For example, we originally considered lining up three of the works in a step ladder pattern, but Jessica Hunter-Larsen pointed out that using a decorative set up just for aesthetic purposes could cause the viewer to focus on the organization of the pieces rather than the content of the works and the ideas we were trying to convey by putting them together.

Even though I have already learned much about this process, we still have a long way to go. Our last trip to the museum was spent selecting individual works to examine. We have each chosen one to two works of art for which we will write a short label that will be placed on the wall for the benefit of the viewer and then write a longer summary that will be available for visitors who would like to delve even more deeply into the exhibition. As a class, we are currently making decisions about what type of labels we would like to write, and must write an introduction to explain to visitors the theme that we are exploring. Clearly, there is a lot left to do before our opening reception, but I am excited to learn more about the works we have chosen, and to begin the next steps in completing our project!

Our Exhibition Blueprint

In these past couple of weeks, we have finally begun curating our gallery! To begin this process we went to the museum and each picked a featured exhibition to explore and dissect. With a graphic organizer and maybe a partner or two, we looked at how curators and artists come together to convey a central theme of an exhibition. For this exercise, I explored the exhibition, Raizes and Roots, which focused on Brazilian culture and the ways in which it has been misrepresented. This was an incredible exhibition to look at, in part, because of the innovative ways in which the works of art were arranged. Toward the rear of the exhibition, drawings hung from the ceiling by thread and were surrounded by beautifully cut tissue paper. Seeing this innovative set up, my partner and I were able to see not only how a certain work of art can shape the trajectory of an exhibition, but also how its location within the space impacts the viewer’s experience. We left with a greater understanding of how to convey a unifying theme through many different mediums.

The days preceding and following our gallery visit were spent flipping through slides and looking more closely at certain objects from the museum’s large storage area with Jessica Hunter-Larsen. We jumped back and forth from theme to theme but finally settled on one surrounding identity and how it is created and shaped. By narrowing down a theme, we were able to go from looking at objects and judging them based on aesthetics to really considering their purpose and message. We were really starting to make progress!

Some pieces jumped right out at us and we knew collectively that they had to be included. On the other hand, some took a little more time to figure out. To help us with our decisions, Jessica took these objects out of storage and let us have a look at them. This close-looking exercise changed everything. We could see sizing, proportions, color, and so many other compositional elements that weren’t translated well through a photo in a PowerPoint. After noting what would and wouldn’t work, we printed out all of the pictures and begin mapping out the gallery.

Since our gallery is oddly shaped (there are six walls to work with), we had to pay close attention to sizing. This was hard considering we were working with printed black-and-white photos that weren’t similar to the actual works of art at all. Still, after numerous MTV Cribs jokes and references to the Real World, we were able to turn our taped floor into a mock-up of the gallery. As a class we experimented with different placements and the use of sculpture within our exhibit. Although nobody got mad, there was some heavy debate over whether aesthetics or theme are more important when grouping pictures together — something we are still exploring as a class. Being able to have this taped-up model was extremely helpful and fun because we were able to truly begin visualizing what our gallery would look like. It was becoming so real! After experimenting with salon walls, sculpture, and varying wall placement, we were able to agree on a basic layout for our gallery. Over block break, Jessica Hunter-Larsen and her team hung our objects in the space. Stay tuned for updates on how it all turned out!

Oh Block 2, How You Leave Me Waxing

Fourth Wednesday in the Physics department means donuts, I have discovered. As we munched away on that sugary morning goodness, we tried to wrap up everything that has happened in this block. By the nature of taking a cross-listed anthropology and physics class, the content of this block has been pretty varied. Our final projects (and there were a few) ranged from notes on a book about ethnoastronomy – the socio-historical study of the relationship between culture and celestial features – to a project using Starry Night software to compute the visibility of celestial events through history. We completed a block long project measuring the angle between the Moon and the Sun, when they are both visible in the sky. In this project, we applied the theoretical knowledge gained throughout the block regarding the angle of the Moon and Sun, relative to earth, and the way this relationship dictates Moon phase. We have talked physics and culture, and the two have complimented each other immensely.

However, it is a difficult bridge to cross. Fundamentally, we have no idea whether our current understandings of the movements of stars and planets are anything akin to the understandings of those who passed before us. We do not know what they believed, and we do not know how important such beliefs were to their culture and way of life. We have indications, but no empirical facts. This is the danger of history, especially when dealing with indigenous and marginalised populations whose peoples, culture and lifestyle thrive today: how do we infer without Othering; how do we extrapolate without stereotyping?

And once we’ve mentally wrapped our heads around all this, where does the physics fit in? How do I marry Kepler’s Third Law with the potential alignment of great kivas to the cardinal directions, when we are not even sure whether the Major Lunar Standstill was observed? In today’s world, very few people know the stars or pay them much heed. The knowledge is specific, rooted in mathematic jargon, and thus at least seemingly inaccessible to a regular Joe. Looking back we ask – how was this knowledge, whatever extent of knowledge there may have been, shared? Did these people we so easily romanticise truly turn their faces upwards to their great nightly television, or are we too easily lulled by the dream of human beings as environmental stewards?

Throughout this block I have found myself gazing skyward. A few nights ago, my housemates and I lay on the roof and gazed at the moon. I told them the story of how the earth and the sky are like a great kiva – the kiva that encompasses us all, and is the home of those ancients who built the first kiva on the ground for human dwellings. Biking home at night, I slow down to gaze at the stars, weaving my way across the road and trying to not hit parked cars. I’m currently in New Mexico, spending block break camping near Santa Fe. Last night, I pointed out the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt, and explained to my friend why we could see a waning gibbous moon rising at midnight.

If there is one thing I will take from this class, it is to look at the sky more. I have navigated by the stars before, and remember making the same assertion then. In the mania of everyday life, both at CC and elsewhere, it is too easy to forget the stars. To run from class to meeting to study to practice to work to bed without once looking up and saying hello to the moon. But this time I’ll try to stick to my mental note – while biking at night, while walking from the Mod Pod to Worner, while staring out the window in search of motivation to write – to look not down, but up.

Two Roads Diverged… But Both Led to the Stars

One class, two professors; this week diverged in two educative directions. Dick’s material is the numbers and figures I, in all honesty, have a much harder time translating into words. My head is swimming with the ratios of the surface area and volume of Earth and Mars – tonight’s homework. For my visual mind, far more practically applicable was the experiment we conducted during Friday class. We used something called a gnomon to determine the cardinal points – North, South, East and West. This process was extremely simple – we recorded the shadow of a piece of string (the gnomon) held vertical at hourly intervals, in relation to a circle drawn such that its radius was the same length as the gnomon. At the two points of intersection between shadow and circle, we drew a straight line – this was West-East. By drawing a second line, perpendicular to the first, we now knew North-South. The applicability of this experiment? Let me show you an excerpt from my group lab write up (the introduction):


Imagine you are lost in the woods. You do not know up from down, left from right, North from South. You know you need to walk South-East to reach the highway, from where you can hitch yourself a ride home, but you have no idea which way that is. You have the whole day ahead of you, until nightfall, to work your way out of the forest and back to the city lights. You come across a clearing in the trees, where a patch of light falls upon the forest floor. In your pocket, you find chalk and a piece of string. You realise: I can use these things to determine the points of a compass! And once I know which direction is which, I can walk on out of here. This is where the question “what can a gnomon tell you” comes into play. A gnomon is a simple, basically tools free method of determining the directions West and East, from which North and South can be calculated. It takes time – the shadow of the gnomon needs to be monitored every hour for a good part of the day, if true cardinal points are to be determined. But if you have time and a piece of string and a tool to write with, it could just be your ticket out of the woods.



(This was what our gnomon experiment looked like – the straight lines show West-East and North-South, just like a compass!)


Scott is the Anthropologist in the room, and my Sociologically trained brain grooves much more quickly to the rhythm of what he says (though I must admit, tonight’s ratio equations did give me a strange but definitive sense of satisfaction). We have been delving deeper into the people that inhabited the South West/North West region, and gazed at the stars. We have been asking: What did they see? What did they make of it? Why, even, did they turn their eyes skyward? This week, we read about the symbolism of the hooghan – the house – for various Native American peoples. The belief system emphasises an interrelated and interdependent natural universe, of which humans are a part. The Gods built the first hooghan or sacred building, as a personification of our natural world. This, there is the physical hooghan of the earth, but there is also a wider, metaphorical hooghan, in which the floor is our Earth and the roof is the stars. The physical house is a site of ritual and healing, through sand painting and chanting, situated within the wider metaphorical house of our universe. Just as the physical hooghan will decay and collapse with age, so too will we humans. Spirits, however, remain – they may continue to dwell in the physical hooghan, just as they linger in the universe.


Something about this story of interconnectedness and interdependence spoke to me. In my opinion, our lives are carried out independently, yet exist as part of a wider network of living entities. As I have mentioned, the act of chanting was also highly important. To chant was to make something real. To put desire into the universe, at full power. I guess I think similarly. I tend to consider my thoughts as formless until I say them out loud or write them down. Before this, they exist only as a jumbled, coherent cloud. Words, formed through speech or writing, give the cloud form. It may take a few tries until I reach true coherence, or grapple what I truly think into words, but that action simply cannot be done within my own head. I don’t think in words, so my thoughts aren’t ‘real’ until I put them into the physical world. My class reflection has wandered a little down the path of personal retrospection, but why else do we educate?

Baca Adventures: Chimney Rock and Major Lunar Standstill

Coming to Baca makes perfect sense for a block on Cultural Astronomy. It’s not just the wide, largely un-light-polluted sky, but something about the sense of quiet tranquillity that engulfs Crestone, a site of important spiritual convergence. There’s something befitting of this mindful environment, as we turn our eyes to the night sky. Considering celestial bodies, I think, demands respect of the wider forces that govern our universe – how can I fully appreciate the gargantuan gravitational orbits of planets in our solar system, amid the frantic hustle of campus life at Colorado College.

We arrived to Baca on Wednesday of the first week of the block, and on Thursday travelled over three hours down to Chimney Rock, a site of cultural astronomical importance for the ancestral Pueblo people of the Southwest. From Chimney Rock, it is thought that people converged to observe the moon as it rose between two tall chimney-looking rock stacks, an occurrence called the Major Lunar Standstill. The orbit of the moon around the Earth oscillates, as it is offset by about 5 degrees from our meridian. As such, the moon rises and sets at different points on the horizon through the year – one can observe this on a weekly basis. Every 18.6 years, however, the moon completes this oscillation, and its point of rising and setting appears to freeze for a period of time – the moon rises at the same location on multiple nights. This is a Major Lunar Standstill, and Chimney Rock is thought to be the only place in the world with a geological formation that naturally serves as a viewing platform. The people who lived at Chimney Rock were here for this purpose – to study the moon and the stars and the sun and their relationship to each other. Dwellings and Kivas – ceremonial buildings – were built at the site to house such populations. At the time of the Major Lunar Standstill, it is thought that people from across the Chaco region flooded to Chimney Rock, which exists as a natural amphitheatre, to observe the celestial phenomenon.



Much of our first week in class has been focused on the moon and its phases. We all know that the silver orb of in the night sky is not a light shining from the moon itself, but a reflection of the sun’s luminosity. But if the moon acts as a mirror for the sun’s rays, then how does the angle of the moon and the sun, relative to Earth, impact the reflection we may see in Colorado? In other words, how are the phases of the moon dictated by the position of the sun and the moon, again relative to Earth? For the moon to be full, the sun’s luminosity must shine directly upon the side of the moon that is visible to us on Earth. Thus, the Earth and Moon’s orbits must be such that the Earth is between the Sun and the Moon. We see a new moon, on the other hand, when the Moon lies between the Sun and the Earth. This is because most of the Sun’s luminosity is reflected back out to space towards the Sun, where we cannot see it, while only a slither of light – a crescent moon – is reflected back to us here on Earth.


In our second class of the block, Professor Dick Hilt asked how many of us had seen the moon the night before. I’m not sure that anyone raised their hand, and to clarity, it was not a cloudy night. Going forward in the block, I will make an effort to pay more attention to the sky around me at night, and observe the celestial bodies as communities through history have done.


Ethics of Genetics

Trisomy – Possession of 3 copies of a chromosome instead of the normal 2.

Trisomies occur in non disjunction events: when chromosomes do not properly separate during the production of gametes (egg or sperm). In that scenario, an embryo conceived from gametes with improper number of chromosomes may be missing or have more than the normal number of chromosomes. In these cases – spontaneous abortions usually occur because the embryo is not viable due the lack of or the abundance of the chromosome in question. A very common disorder that results from a trisomy is trisomy 21 – Down Syndrome.  In autosomes, a trisomy usually produces a non viable embryo. However, if a trisomy occurs in the sex chromosomes, the embryo is viable will most likely develop. There are a bunch of different variations of the trisomies.

In a normal biological female and male, the sex chromosome are XX and XY respectively. However, a trisomy can cause XXX, XXY, or XYY to occur. In these cases, the people that possess these combinations can live a relatively normal life.

People with XYY have a disorder called “Jacob’s Syndrome”. Jacob’s Syndome has also been dubbed “XYY Supermale”. The reason why is that the extra Y chromosome causes a dosage problem. Even though females may have two copies of the XX chromosome – one is inactivated to compensate for the dosage issue  that might occur. However, the extra Y in this case, can not be inactivated. The dosage issue caused by the extra Y can have dramatic effects.

The following signs may be an indication that a young boy or teenager has XYY Syndrome:

  • an autism diagnosis
  • an inability to grow facial or body hair
  • attention difficulties
  • delayed motor skill development, such as writing
  • delayed or difficult speech
  • delayed or absent puberty
  • emotional or behavioral issues
  • gynecomastia, or enlarged breast tissue
  • hand trembling or involuntary muscle movements
  • hypogonadism, or low testosterone levels
  • hypotonia, or weak muscle tone
  • learning disabilities
  • low energy levels
  • small penis
  • small, undersized testicles
  • taller than average height
  • weak bone

taken from:

The reason why we spent quite a bit of time on this particular syndrome was that, in the past there was a huge issue about association of genetics and behavior. There was study done in the early 20th century with looking at the karyotypes of prisoners. They found that in the prison population compared to the general population, the prevalence of Jacob’s Syndrome was slightly higher. This was later debunked with further research. However, it brought about the debate on whether or not genetics predetermines behavior. Professor Ralph Bertrand presented the question of whether or not it was right to test for Jacob’s Syndrome at birth just like one would be tested for Cystic Fibrosis or Phenylketonuria. He asked about the rightness or wrongness of such testing because the results may then change the way the parents and society treats children who have been labeled at birth to be “future criminals”. Some students said it was wrong to do such testing because genetics is not destiny. Some students said the test should take place in order to give children with this disorder the proper care and education. Such subject exist in the realms of ethical purgatory. In the end, behavior is so complicated – that the explanation of having an extra Y predetermines criminal activity is simply inadequate.


Sophomore Year Slump?

We’ve all heard of it.  We’ve all dreaded it.  We’ve all still managed to fall victim to it in some way.  Some argue that the idle mind is its catalyst, others say it’s the result of feeling burned out after the first-year inferno of eagerness and energy.  At CC, one would expect a similar phenomenon: it would make sense if students tackled their first few blocks with ease and then suddenly grind to a halt as a result of the stress and weight of subsequent rounds of intensive study, right?  Over the course of these first few months back on campus, I have found only the contrary: as we students of the class of 2018 transition from the tentative stages of freshman year into the more driven phases of second- and third-year learning, we have begun to blossom in a brilliant display of creative potential, academic capacity, and a confidence that is unwavering, for we are now returning to our home field, and we are ready to amaze.

Hello!  My name is Sam Dahnert, and I am a member of the class of 2018.  I hail from Poughkeepsie, New York, and I am currently considering an Independently Designed Major in Architectural Theory, followed by two years’ undergraduate education in engineering through the 3-2 Plan.  My academic experience insofar with Colorado College has been in Film, Physics, Theatre, Philosophy, Anthropology and Art History, and like many freshmen, I was originally so taken aback by the passionate and engaged atmosphere of Colorado College that I could hardly imagine committing to a single major!  Fortunately, my interests have evolved thanks to my peers and advisors, and as a result I am much more confident in my current plan of action.  Outside of the classroom, I am heavily involved with student theatre, and I work for the Theatre Department in the scenic shop.  In addition, I am passionate about photography and film, plus I’m an avid skier (when in season).  I chose CC for its unique approach to segmented learning (much akin to my education in progressive private schools) and its options to pursue engineering along the line.

My current block, AH200: Modern Architecture, will prove to be one of many determining factors in choosing a major over the course of this year.  Returning to campus at the start of this year, I was excited to get back to work and enjoy CC’s unique campus atmosphere, but I knew that this year was overshadowed by the dreaded lull to which many of my friends from back home had already fallen victim.  However, I knew that something else lay ahead for me: the unique and supportive educational atmosphere and my expansive involvement with on-campus activities was bound to ensure that my mind would not go idle, and my time at work was never too overwhelming.  This block has proved just that: in the midst of field trips, class discussions and engaging reading and writing assignments, my time on campus has been far from a lull.

This first week and a half of class has been utterly fantastic.  Our class of nineteen has delved headlong into an exploration of modern architecture that is an art history course in its finest form: in addition to reading into elaborate backgrounds of social movements and events that influenced architects of the last century and a half, our class has also participated in two open discussions of upcoming structures on campus that embody many modernist principles and the evolution of design.  In addition, our class examined and gave presentations on existing modernist buildings on our campus, to shed light on the evolving principles and ideologies that influenced their designs.  To cap it all off, yesterday was our first of three day-long field trips off-campus to experience modern design outside of the CC world: on our class excursion, we roamed the streets of the beautiful business district of Denver, taking notes on many of the structures in the area, including the State Capitol Building, the Civic Center and Union Station.  I could ramble for paragraphs upon paragraphs about being able to witness first-hand the aesthetic pleasure of these structures, but I figure this post is getting long enough!  I suppose I’ll write a follow-up to cover the rest of this past week in detail.  The most important thing I have taken from these last few weeks, to be brief, is that CC always has a way of making learning fascinating.

I look forward to keeping track of my progress through this block via this blog…  I’ve never written one of these before, so please excuse the discombobulated, rambling language.  The next one will be much more concise, I promise.

Also, feel free to comment on this post if you wish!  I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.  Fodder for the next post is always appreciated.

Until then, readers.

Sincerely, Sam Dahnert

Studying Genetics with Context

End of Week 1

Often times, I feel as if we forget that science is often closely flanked by social issues. So far in the course, the ethics of science and in particular, genetics has come up again and again. Professor Ralph Bertrand constantly reminds us to think of the bigger picture and that science should not be studied in a vacuum. He often asks “Why is this important? Why are we teaching this material in the first place?”  The answer to these why questions are quite selfish. After all, we live in an anthropocentric society. Studying genetics allow us to better understand how living organisms thrive and propagate, how to mitigate or solve genetic disorders, and how to better the human condition.

On the second day, we had a discussion on genetic mutations and genetic modification. As you all know, the discourse on genetically modified organisms(GMOs) in popular media is not particularly informative nor helpful. A classmate had brought up the question of where you would draw the line in calling something a GMO, afterall nothing is inherently “natural” about the food we eat. Is artificial selection or selective breeding consider part of creating a GMO? Because for a lot of the foods that we eat – corn, almonds, tomatoes and etc, were inedible before selective breeding. Almonds contained a level of cyanide that would have killed us. The precursor to modern corn is a tiny grain called Teosinte, but after years of selective breeding, had finally become domesticated around 6,000 years ago. Is the line drawn at DNA splicing, DNA insertion, or DNA deletion? Is the backlash on GMOs due to the “unnatural” way humans have intervene with “nature”?

In addition to discussing genetics and its role in society, we’ve review the basic tools necessary to study genetics. Things like Western Blots, Northern Blots, Southern Blots, DNA microarrays, and DNA hybridization are all techniques to studying molecular genetics.

A little side note: Whoever said scientists don’t have senses of humor is very wrong. The name of Northern, Southern, and Western blots started because a man name Edwin Southern developed the Southern Blot.  The Northern and Western Blots came afterwards as a joke created by other scientists about the cardinal directions and Edwin Southern’s name.

These techniques help study changes in DNA sequences. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), short tandem repeats (STRs), and copy number variants (CNVs) can all be detected by these techniques.  These different types of differences are helped to differentiate individuals from one another as well differentiate populations. They’re also used to detect defects such as genetic diseases that may be associated with the changes in nucleotide sequences.

Examples brought up in class were about how STRs are used for identification of suspects as well as paternity testing.

There are about 13 core loci looked at by the FBI to check for identity. The way STRs are used for the identification of suspects is to compare unique combinations of STR found in the recovered DNA and the suspect’s DNA. An STR – standing for “short tandem repeat” is a 2 – 6 nucleotide sequence that repeats at least twice in tandem. For example, if the short sequence is “atg” then STR of “atgatgatgatg” has 4 repeats. The number of repeats are unique and are pass down from parent to child. We all have a copy from our dad and from our mom. In this identification, the suspect may have a 4 and 6 copy at STR # 1 and the recovered DNA may have a 4 and 6 copy at STR # 1. This information can not correctly match the suspect to the DNA because many people may have that combination of 4 and 6 at STR # 1. Thus many STRs must be used. The chances of a mistaken identification decreases as the number of STRs increase.

Another usage of STRs is in day time television shows. The Maury Show has been running for over 20 years. One of the big motifs of the show is paternity testing. So if you have ever turned on the TV in the early afternoons, you might have heard the line“YOU are NOT the FATHER” or  “YOU ARE the father!” Well paternity testing works very much the same way  as the suspect identification mentioned in the above paragraph. However, with paternity testing you need DNA from both parents. The child’s STRs combination is some sort of amalgation of the parent’s STRs combinations.

It’ be a fascinating week thus far. Please continue to follow the progress of our class!