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Serra High Students Will Be Published Scientists

For a scientist, publishing in a peer-reviewed journal is a professional requirement. It is also something that might not happen until the scientist has been working in their field for several years.

But more than 30 high school students at Serra High School will be skipping forward in their careers, becoming published scientists before they have even graduated high school.

Students in Serra's biotechnology program are researching how environmental decay affects different species. Beginning in February, students analyzed the COI gene, a portion of the DNA molecule, in 20 Channel Islands species. Their work is being submitted for inclusion in the Barcode of Life Data Systems project, which hopes to establish a planetary DNA database.
During spring break, 10 students and Senegar-Mitchell traveled to Coastal Marine Biolabs in Ventura , where they worked with research scientists who are cataloging DNA for the study. They helped investigate how biodiversity loss is a result of habitat destruction, invasive species, population expansion, pollution and overharvesting.
Coastal Marine Biolabs will publish the test results. The names of all Serra students who participated in the study will be included in the publication.

"Many scientists have to wait until their careers have advanced before they become published," said Dr. Ericka Senegar-Mitchell, Serra's biotechnology teacher. "Having high school students named in a study published in a peer-reviewed scientific platform is outstanding and will aid them every step up the educational and professional ladder."

Serra's biotechnology program gives students an early look at what could be their life's work. Students have access to state-of-the-art equipment to learn about the basic building blocks of life. Many of San Diego's top biotechnology firms donate equipment and other supplies to the program, which gives students a preview of the sciences they might study at a university.

 "This program gives students a real chance to see this type of research in action," Senegar-Mitchell said. "Part of our job as teachers is to expose our students to as many opportunities as possible. Marine research is a very important part of this field."

For more information on the program, contact Senegar-Mitchell at

About the School

Located in the Tierrasanta neighborhood, Serra High School is a comprehensive high school with a tradition of excellence. It offers students a variety of programs, including high-tech, cutting edge programs such as biotechnology, career-technical education, athletics and marching band. Serra is the center of the community and receives outstanding support from its foundation and neighbors.