MDI Biological Laboratory

Family Science Night Returns!

  • July 15, 2022

In the 1938 book The Evolution of Physics, published by Leopold Infeld, Albert Einstein said, “Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone.”

While Albert Einstein may have found the fundamental idea of science to be simple, the translation of these ideas with everyday language is more of an art than a science.

MDI Biological Laboratory’s high school and undergraduate summer research fellows designed and produced a wide variety of hands-on activities to explain their biomedical research topics to 170 visitors of all ages at our annual Family Science Night. Our summer fellows tackled complex concepts like kidney function, microplastics and phytoplankton, and gene expression, providing translation for a variety of ages. Fellows from the Haller lab focused on morpholinos, which are used to modify gene expression by knocking down gene function, are not typically covered in first grade science, but the Haller fellows demonstrated their function with train travel at their booth, “Morpholino Metro”. The train, which represented a ribosome, traveled along tracks (DNA), that featured a roadblock (the morpholino), which prevented the train from getting to the station (where proteins are made). Not a subject typically covered in first grade science, the Haller fellows designed an engaging strategy that made morpholinos approachable for attendees of all ages.

Student fellows prepare for Family Science Night during a weekly Communicating Science course, where they learn the importance of interpersonal and interdisciplinary communication in navigating a successful career in science. Zoe Reich, who studies C. elegans in the Rollins lab, explains, “It is a real challenge to explain our research sometimes and [the course] helps me realize where my knowledge gaps are.” The course culminates in the Student Symposium, where students deliver talks and posters on the final results of their 10-week research projects to their mentors and peers. Communicating Science seeks to cultivate our fellows’ ability to communicate their research to a full spectrum of audience members, from families to faculty members.

This year, in addition to more than a dozen activities and exhibits organized by MDI Biological Laboratory student fellows, partners from the Mount Desert Historical Society’s Landscape of Change project, the Maine Discovery Museum and Simply STEM offered hands-on science fun. We were thrilled that the Darling’s Ice Cream for A Cause truck was on site to provide some yummy treats to all the scientists!

Photos by Sergey Tkachuk, Ph.D., Visiting Scientist in the Haller lab.