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The University of Chicago South Side Science Fest was created to showcase countless fun pathways to the field.

Just before noon on a recent Saturday, dozens of families were walking the Science Quad at the University of Chicago to enjoy the institution’s first South Side Science Festival.

A sea of ​​light blue t-shirts with “scientist” written on their backs walked among people wearing yellow t-shirts indicating they were helping with the event. The tent housed everything from 3D printouts of CT scans of Jurassic mammal teeth and jaws to microwave-powered lasers to immunology workshops. His heart rate per minute associated with using the CPR dummy was also four times his.

But it was the tent that served liquid nitrogen ice cream with toppings that kept four-and-a-half-year-old Caden Longworth hooked.

“We don’t get out of Hyde Park very often, so the fact that it’s here was very convenient,” said Longworth.

And for 7-year-old Kamari Allen, the tent with butterflies she could sit in brought squeals of joy.

All-day, all-ages events emphasized the importance of STEM education, careers in science, and understanding how science impacts everyday life. The festival was created to connect South Side community members with science and education resources. More than 60 booths with hands-on demonstrations and experiments on site, panel discussions on climate change, health and society, and careers where attendees can interact one-on-one with faculty, research scientists, engineers and medical professionals There was also a panel. About 200 of her C University student volunteers (mostly science majors) attended and showed why they think science is so cool.

At one booth, Tong Lan (5th year) and Shannon Lu (3rd year) demonstrated how to extract strawberry DNA from succulents using dish soap, salt, water, and rubbing alcohol. Lan and Lu’s faces lit up after one student “Ewww” and pulled out a long strand of sticky liquid red DNA.

“You’re not the first to say that,” laughed Lu, a chemistry major, referring to strawberries having eight copies of each type of chromosome.

“We do a lot with DNA in our lab, and we’re trying to make different artificial proteins. With this demonstration, we can show people how to get the DNA out of the fruit. It will be fun and encourage kids to get involved in this,” said Ran.

Shaz Rasul, executive director of student civic engagement initiatives and interim director of the University’s Center for Community Services, said the idea for Science Fest came from a junior faculty at the University of Chicago. Encouraged by his office to talk to community stakeholders to understand what people want, need, and are interested in, he said: He said the faculty had listened to him for a good part of his year before starting work in mid-spring.

“This started during the 2020 lockdown,” says Sarah King, a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. I’m good friends with Hannes Bernien (Assistant Professor of Molecular Engineering) and Maanasa Raghavan (Assistant Professor of Human Genetics, Neubauer Family) and all three of us he asked about how to interact more with the community and how to get them. was talking at Excited and interested in science as a way to improve relationships with the community and help general science education and science literacy in the general public. ”

Seeing the impact of Europe’s “Long Night of Sciences”, the three wanted to do something similar as a spring festival where German universities and research institutes open to the public what scholars and researchers were working on. .

“You can go to science concerts, you can go to science-based comedies,” said King. “And it’s deliberately aimed at all ages… not just school-aged children, but young adults in their formative years who think about their relationship with the world and how science fits into it.” And parents are making complex decisions about drugs, what car to buy, what kind of heating system to install in the house, and ultimately these are It’s all about science and how you think about the world.

“These are questions that we scientists think about a lot, and we want to help people think about them. What is your problem?This is a two way way to make our research more relevant and help people better understand science in their daily lives. is.”

The South Side Science Festival, co-hosted by the University of Chicago’s Department of Physical Sciences, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and the Department of Biological Sciences, also served as an adjunct to science communication, Rasul said.

“If we want science to be inclusive, we have to be able to talk about it so that people at all stages of development can connect,” he said. There is a lot of energy around, much of it related to new technologies such as quantum science, biotechnology, clean energy, etc. In a different way, all the advances in these new technologies are inclusive from the start. I have a real hope of becoming

“And you can involve the community in that whole process. Research shows that people want to feel connected to science. They want to meet scientists, they want to understand how to become scientists. Trying to make invisible pathways visible is especially important to us, because we want to increase the diversity of science. , I need a connection.”

King hopes the South Side Science Festival will become an annual event and connect with local community colleges and high schools. She’s particularly interested in the She’s 15 to She’s 25-year-old group, who she says thinks “people get too cold with science” or that science isn’t for them. says.

“Understanding science begins with fun and excitement,” Vernien said. “I think that’s what we’re here to create.”

drockett@chicagotribune.com

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