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Cocktails & Chromosomes: Sequencing suds

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How’s this for scientific progress? The first telescope was invented in 1608. It took more than 400 years to reach the point where we can now see planets beyond our solar system. “In biology, we made the equivalent leap of not being able to examine DNA at all to being able to look at all DNA in about 40 years,” says Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) educator Jason Williams.

Even better, today, your DNA can be sequenced with a device that fits in the palm of your hand. Williams showed how in the latest installment of Cocktails & Chromosomes, CSHL’s ongoing series of monthly science talks at Industry bar in Huntington, NY. And in perhaps the most literal interpretation of “cocktails and chromosomes” yet, Williams brought to the stage one of Industry’s artisanal drinks along with Oxford Nanopore Technologies’ portable genome sequencer.

Williams is assistant director of diversity and research readiness at CSHL’s DNA Learning Center (DNALC). As he points out, DNALC students get to study human DNA using the same tools as CSHL scientists. But here, Williams set the sequencer’s sights on a different subject—brewer’s yeast. “Because in a bar, what would you sequence except for some yeast DNA?” he quipped.

Press play to see how it works. And sign up now for the February edition of Cocktails & Chromosomes. CSHL chemist John Moses will join us on February 29 to discuss molecules that changed the world.