How does one go about getting accepted to Oxford University these days? By building a DNA testing machine in your bedroom. That’s what British teenager Fred Turner decided to do after years of teasing from friends about how, “me and Gus (his brother) have different dads,” Turner told the Daily Mail. That scientific feat won him the UK Young Engineer of the Year Award–and admission to Oxford next year.
To solve the mystery the 17-year-old built his own Polymerase Chain Reaction machine for about £250 (retail price-£3,000) and took DNA samples from his brother to test if he had “two copies of a recessive gene which causes a mutation in the MC1R protein in DNA.” That’s nerdspeak for the mutated gene that results in red hair.
It turned out Mr. Turner’s brother Gus did in fact have the mutated gene, which explained the difference from the rest of his family. Although Gus’ desire to grow a ginger afro still remains a mystery, he appreciates the effort his brother is putting in to the test. “It has taken a lot of work for him to get here; he has been working non-stop on it for about a year,” said Gus.
It took nearly a year to build the PCR machine and run the test, but for Mr. Turner it turned out to be a pretty worthwhile investment. He got the chance to have his machine examined by a panel of Nobel-prize winning scientists, teachers, and celebrities who judge the UK Young Engineer of the Year competition.
Hopefully this won’t turn out like that other child prodigy whose scientific breakthrough got debunked. Think of the loss of progress for gingerkind!