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Genes on a String

I learnt about the IGGY Heron Scholarship in Science and Arts on the internet. The idea of thinking about an aspect of biology or physics that could be taught through any of the performing arts attracted me because Biology and Music are two of my most favourite subjects. I recently gave my AS level exams and during the course, i developed a special affection for Biology, Genetics being the main cause of my love for the subject. Besides studies, i enjoy music. I'm the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for two top notch bands in my hometown. To make the learning process easier for me, I often incorporate elements of music into my studies. Students often complain that Genetics is a confusing topic. I agree. I always found the ideas relating to DNA, genes, chromosomes and chromatids very hard to understand. Keeping that in mind, I devised a simple yet helpful method which not only tackles the confusions but it also nurtured a love for studies relating to genetics, inside me.

What I did was that I compared genetics with basic guitar theory. Each guitar string represents a Polynucleotide chain.

When you play two guitar strings at a time, you are combining two polynucleotide chains and hence making a DNA molecule.

As we know that different genes are located at different places on a chain, it wouldn't be wrong if we compare the different genes on a polynucleotide chain with the different notes that can be played on a single string. Each note on a string has a different sound just like each gene on a chain has a different purpose. This idea can be further extended to the study of alleles but I'd rather not go there. A chromosome consists of two DNA molecules. The same theory can be applied to the guitar. We can combine two structures, each pressing on two strings (making two DNA molecules, as explained earlier) to form a chord. When we play the two structures altogether, we are combining two DNA molecules, making a chromosome. For instance, here is

how you play a 'G' major chord. Your Index and middle fingers should be pressing down on the top most two strings and your ring and little fingers should be pressing down on the bottom most two strings and 'VOILA'! You just played a 'Chromosome'.

By doing the same with the C major and the D major chords, you end up with three chromosomes. Now, you can combine these three chords (or chromosomes!) into a chord progression, that is strum all three chords to make a song, and you get an organism with three chromosomes.

I have been using this technique to teach my younger brother and as a consequence, he is learning how to play the guitar alongside Biology. I see this technique as a means for teaching Biology and Music simultaneously and the basis of further advancements in the field of teaching science by the use of performing arts. Hope this helps.