Honors biology students in Mr. Buchwalder’s class carry the 247-foot double-helix model to the turf field for its official measurement on Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Makenna Dunstan is a ninth grader in Mr. Buchwalder’s honors biology class who helped construct and measure the DNA chain.
Science teacher Matt Buchwalder and his students at Lincoln Academy have built the world’s longest DNA model, a double helix structure that was measured this week at just over 247 feet. The previous record in the Guinness Book of World Records was 225 feet, set in 2018 by a man in New Zealand.
Mr. Buchwalder has incorporated this model into his genetics lessons for the last 7 years. Students learned the structure of DNA and the genetic code it follows as each class helped add on to this growing chain. For years this structure has been hanging from the ceiling of his classroom looking like a mix between modern art and a really long party streamer. “When it got so long that there was no more room left on my ceiling, I figured it was time to take it down for a final measurement.”
A close up of the double helix structure, which is made with paper clips and 4 colors of post-it paper replicating the four molecules that make up DNA.
The model looks simple enough: two long chains of paperclips with colored papers holding them together as they twist around each other. But it has some interesting features. Each colored strip of paper corresponds to one of the four molecules that make up DNA: A, T, G, and C. Just four “letters” are used to code for every gene in plants, animals, humans, and all life on earth. Mr. Buchwalder and his students built this model following the exact DNA code for the human gene for hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen in blood. It includes over 2,500 “letters” of the gene, and over 5,000 paperclips.
“One of the best parts for me was seeing the students carry it out of the classroom and out to the field after all those years. They had to snake around several wings of the school and it just kept going and going.” Once the students carried it out to the field, Dan Phelps, from Phelps Architects made the official measurement.
Lieutenant Brandon Kane from Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office was among the observers who certified the length of the record-breaking double helix chain.
Guinness Records requires a collection of witnesses and professional measurements for the record to be confirmed. Other witnesses included Officer Brandon Kane from Lincoln County Sherriff’s Office, Mr. Bill Murdock who does legal research, and Mr. Jake Abbott, an administrator at Lincoln Academy. Mr. Buchwalder expects to hear if the record attempt is accepted later this year.