Thousands of science seekers dazzled at ASU's Night of the Open Door

Thousands of science seekers dazzled at ASU's Night of the Open Door

March 10, 2017

  • Kids (and adults) were amazed to see the sugar, cream and milk mix supercooled using liquid nitrogen to make instant ice cream. Best of all, they got to devour the experiment. It was all part of ASU's Night of the Open Door, an annual signature event of the Arizona SciTech Festival which took place this year Feb. 25, from 3-9 p.m.


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  • ASU was filled with thousands of science seekers on a 75-degree, February evening at the annual Night of the Open Door. 


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  • Kids donned colorful lab gloves to try to get their hands-on a demo to learn more about viruses. 


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  • Visitors learned about the microbiome and its links with diseases, including autism. 


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  • Biodesign students give a demo on how bacteria can be used to clean up the environment. 


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March 10, 2017

On a picturesque, 75-degree Arizona evening, as visitors first walked through the doors of the Biodesign Institute, a buzz of excitement greeted them. There, visitors lined up to try on virtual reality goggles for a sneak peek at what the completed Biodesign building expansion would look like from the maze of construction next door.

It was all part of the ASU Night of the Open Door, an annual signature event of the Arizona SciTech Festival which took place this year Feb. 25, from 3-9 p.m. is. It involves schools across all ASU campuses and is a chance to showcase ASU’s values of the No. 1 university for innovation, interactive learning and the importance of an engaging education.

And at Biodesign, it continues to provide an exciting entryway for curious minds---young and adult--- into the scientific insights and technology available that are shaping the future of society.

“I think if I would have come to one of these sooner, I would have changed to a science major,” said visitor Jacquie Eaton, “I really liked learning about all the bacteria in our bodies. It outnumbers our own cells! Oh, and fecal transplants were cool too,” she added. She learned about the latest Biodesign research on fecal transplants, which use healthy donor microbiomes to treat a variety of diseases like autism.

The Night of the Open Door is a premier opportunity for Biodesign researchers to share their work with the community. Planning for the event started last November, and with 36 teams involved, a great deal of work goes into making sure that the science is not only enjoyable for all age groups but also builds on the science guests encounter in their everyday lives.

This year, guests had the chance to make glycans out of gumdrops, build their own proteins and viruses, eat ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, meet FBI agents, engineers, mathematicians, and of course, scientists. They also had the chance to conduct their own experiments in a space suit, and learn all about the ways research will have an effect in our world, among other things.

Guest Angie Caruso said, “We block out this weekend every year. It’s fun seeing the people working the stations too.  They’re very passionate. Every year we’ve loved it. Here’s the deal, though, they always get excited about the gumdrop station and the candy, but they have fun.  We were only planning on an hour and we’ve already been here for two.”

Virologist Karen Kibler’s group had a Post-it notes forum asking guests what they would make a virus do ---if they could have it make anything. “A lot of people said they would have their virus make ice cream,” she said. “The night is important in showing the community how engaging and fun science can be.”

“The Night of the Open Door is one of our favorite events at Biodesign. It is an opportunity for our scientists to interact with the latent, and not so latent, science geeks in the community and show them the cool projects we are working on,” said Joshua LaBaer, interim executive director of Biodesign.  Echoing that, Arvind Varsani, a new virologist in the institute, who experienced the event for the first time, said it was awesome to see the enthusiasm in the students.  His main takeaway of the event was to “have fun—science is out there.”

Indeed, science is out there and faculty, students and volunteers worked hard to show the many wonders that can be found through science. This year, the Night of the Open Door had a record number of exhibits, all the collective work of students, faculty and trainees. They showed the ways nature, or what they refer to as  “biologically inspired" research works to improve human health, sustain our planet and protect lives. The usually quiet halls of the institute were bustling with guests of all ages, all through the night.

Thousands of visitors also got to see “AfterGlow,” an art installation by boredomresearch. The collaboration between Southampton UK-based artists Vicky Isley and Paul Smith displayed images in the atrium of a world illuminated by infection in an exploration of the bounds of epidemiological practice.

In every corner, there was something to be seen and explore. The area beneath the stairs leading into the lower atrium had a display of cacti showing abnormal growths, much like tumors. Guests were posed with questions researchers strive to answer every day: Did dinosaurs have cancer? Do tumors from plant cells mimic tumors from human cells? How can we use viruses to help instead of hurt? How can we detect things we can’t see? Is your brain flexible?

For parents and ASU alums, this was a great night to see the university in ways they hadn’t previously and even introduce their children to the value of higher education. “I really want [college] to be accessible to them. Whether they come to ASU or not, I want them to know what’s available, that there are different schools, and to get acquainted with the idea of college life before they need to think about it,” said a mother of three.

So whether you are a kid or a kid at heart, a lifelong learner or current student, there was something for everyone to engage in and expand their horizons, leaving visitors with a taste of what’s next on the horizon for the Biodesign Institute.

 

 

Written by: Lerys del Moral