SPEaCing and experimenting with our community at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The sun and faces were shining this past Saturday, January 24 at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, TX. SPEaC hosted our inaugural science booth in the Being Human Hall at the museum as part of our community educational outreach. UT Southwestern graduate students and postdoctoral fellows presented a fun demonstration and related it to basic science research based on phospholipids (lipids). Our volunteers used milk, food coloring and dish soap to demonstrate that the chemical properties of soap can alter the fats (lipids) in milk. Food coloring was dropped into whole milk, and a cotton swab coated in dish soap was dipped into the food coloring. This soap and milk reaction creates a beautifully striking movement of the food coloring that continues as the milk is exposed to the soap. The detergents present in the soap interact with lipids in the milk to form micelles (fat globules), causing the observed movement visualized with the food coloring. Children and adult museum-goers alike were amazed by this experiment, especially because they performed it with real scientists!

Aside from our appealing demonstration, SPEaC volunteers discussed the importance of lipids in our cells and why research labs perform phospholipid research. Scientific research on phospholipids has led to treatments for high cholesterol and a better understanding of the underlying causes of diabetes that can be used to develop future therapeutics. We provided hand-outs explaining the importance of lipid research in more detail to help the community understand how basic science research benefits them.

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Overall, our booth was a major success! We attracted approximately 600 museum attendees to our booth to perform the experiment and discuss science with our volunteers. SPEaC looks forward to hosting our next science booth in the near future at the Perot Museum of Nature Science.

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We would like to acknowledge the following organizations and people that contributed to our outreach endeavor. Our science booth was sponsored by the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) (COMPASS Outreach Grant Award) and the UT Southwestern Graduate School, for which SPEaC is very grateful. We would like to give a huge thanks to the Perot Museum employees for their help and hospitality. We are especially appreciative to Thomas Close, Gallery Experience Manager, and Steve Hinkley, Vice President of Programs, who helped SPEaC organize our event at the museum. We greatly appreciate Angela Diehl (ScientificArtTexas.com), who created an excellent illustration highlighting lipids in an animal cell. Natalie Lundsteen and Stuart Ravnik from UT Southwestern also provided their support and guidance. Our gratitude extends to SPEaC members Jonathan, Ashley, Chelsea, Monica, Balaji, Svetlana, Devon, Ana, Lauren, Sharon, Ying, Cyndi, Kim and Ganesh, who volunteered at this event. You all are great, and it is a pleasure working with you!

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If you would like to visit us at our booth at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, stay tuned to our Twitter feed or our calendar of events to find out when we will be there again. We look forward to seeing you!

 Editor: Devon C.

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