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PSI - Are my soybeans wearing different genes?

     Author: Burkhard Schulz


The video is inspired by a popular TV show investigating crime scenes. Here, however, the investigators are solving cases in the field of plant science investigations (PSI). The stunning phenomenon that soybean plants can survive herbicide treatments and grow on fields without weed competition is investigated using DNA extraction, Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), gene analysis etc. Transgenes are found that make the soybean plants herbicide resistant. These genes can be detected in soybean plants as well as in food products such as tofu that are found on the supermarket shelf. This video addresses questions about genes and transgenes in food – we all eat DNA and genes every day - and the use of transgenic crops for food production. It is a student production inspired from research projects of a Plant Physiology (HORT301) course for Horticulture and Biology students at Purdue University as an entry for the video competition.

The video originated from experimental work that three undergraduate students performed during a Plant Physiology course (HORT301) in the fall of 2008 at Purdue University. The idea behind the video production is that the call for new ways by which students can conceive and communicate ideas is pushed forward. Course assignments usually take on traditional forms of communication including reports, PowerPoint presentations, and seminar talks. However, students communicate daily using newer digital formats such as MySpace, Skype, videogames, YouTube, secondLife, facebook and others. These areas of intense student interest could be exploited for educational purposes to engage students, foster active learning and enhance critical thinking. Very often the students also realized a knowledge gap amongst their peers, family members and friend concerning their area of study and results of their research. How can I tell it to my parents what I am doing in the lab is a question that often arises. To address this problem, digital content in form of a playful educational video is one way to help communicate and educate an audience that might not always hav the same level of “scientific literacy” in plant science than horticulture and biology students. The target audience for this video clearly goes beyond the classmates of the undergraduate from the HORT301 plant physiology course. All steps of production of this video have been taken by or together with the students who also perform as actors in this video. The students were actively involved from the storyboarding, preparing the locations, shooting the footage, designing animations to the editing process and finalizing the cut of the material after critical review. Video equipment was supplied by Purdue University’s Digital Learning Collaboratory at ITaP ( and through an Instructional Innovation grant by the College of Agriculture. Editing of the material and production of musical score has been done together with Diana Nucera (Video artist, Detroit, MI) and Ace the Kid (High school student, Detroit Summer), respectively. More background information on our video productions can be found at