Undergrads and Grad Students Get Involved in Wisconsin Science Festival

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Undergrads in their outreach event at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building. Extracting DNA from wheat germ and talking about the science of sugar — just a few ways students in the Department of Biochemistry embody the Wisconsin Idea by participating in science outreach. Biochemistry undergraduates and graduate students from the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB) took part in activities at the Wisconsin Science Festival on Oct. 20-23.

Many Biochemistry undergraduates are involved in the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) UW–Madison chapter. At the festival, the group ran a booth where children could extract DNA from wheat germ and take it home with them, in the form of a cloudy liquid.

Taralyn Wilmer, a sophomore biochemistry major and outreach co-chair for the ASBMB student chapter, says outreach is an important goal of ASBMB as a whole, as well as within the chapter.

“Personally, I feel it’s extremely important because it wasn’t until high school that I got interested in science,” she says. “When I was younger I didn’t think I would like science and I wish I had experiences like this so I wouldn’t have written it off so early only to discover it much later.”

Graduate students at their outreach event at the Madison Children's Museum. Graduate students in IPiB — Biochemistry’s joint Ph.D. program with the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry — set up shop at the Madison Children’s Museum’s Willy Wonka themed night. The group focused on the science of sugar, hosting a taste test of different sweeteners and discussing how the structure of sugar affects its taste.

“As outreach co-chair, I think having a presence and being involved in the community and letting others know about what we’re doing is vital,” says Christine Isabella, an officer on IPiB’s Student Faculty Liaison Committee. “It’s important to be able to communicate with people who aren’t scientists. I’ve been involved in the festival and other activities before and it’s always good to involve people in our science.”

Others got involved as individuals, such as IPiB student Zack Kemmerer — known as “The Science Ninja” — who gave scientific talks and participated in activities with children.