Some high school students are clearly destined for greatness. You just know that they’ll end up making it big in Hollywood or that they’ll design wonderful buildings or that they’ll make some big scientific discovery. And some high school students don’t bother waiting for graduation; they get started right away. Such is the case with 17-year-old Brenda Tan and 18-year-old Matt Cost of New York. As part of a science project, the two students have uncovered what may turn out to be a new species of cockroach.
The teens collected more than 200 specimens of genetic material and matched the DNA sequences with data on file in the Barcode of Life Database and GenBank. They identified nearly a hundred different animal species, including ostrich (from a feather duster), bison (in a dog biscuit), and even a giant flying squid (in a popular Asian snack). The most significant find, however, may turn out to be the cockroach.
The bug looks like the American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana) but when they analyzed its DNA, it turned out to be significantly different. “The cockroach is genetically modified,” said Professor Mark Stoeckle of Rockefeller University who supervised the project. “Species don’t differ more than one percent; this cockroach is four percent different, which suggests it is a new species of cockroach. We think that the museums of natural history in Paris or New York could be interested.”
Sounds to me like these two are already on their way to being great scientists — and that I’m going be very careful where I step next time I visit New York.