Bhattacharya Lab - Outreach
"2011 Rutgerscience Saturday - Our Ocean World",
an outreach event organized by the New Jersey 4-H.
Several groups of students in grades six through nine from New Jersey attended the event. To give the students an example of how one becomes a scientist, Tovah showed photos from her high school career when she attended science fairs and science contests at the state level. She showed examples of the species she used to work with as an undergraduate and during her PhD. She pointed out her trips, classes and achievements in the different stages of her university career. Tovah provided hands-on-activities for the groups and with the use of photos and anecdotes the audience was introduced to the basic foundations of genome research. Students learned how biological classification of living things is based on the object's characteristics and by the object's genetic code, the DNA. Following the presentation Tovah gave the young students a tour of the laboratory. She explained how the scientific equipment is used to help to find answers to her research questions. To give the children an impression of one of her current projects she linked a live view of Heterocapsa circularisquama, which she captured using a light microscope, on a computer monitor. Heterocapsa causes red tides in the ocean and causes billions of dollars of loss to the marine economy. Tovah explained that by culturing different strains of Heterocapsa and exposing them to various environments they will gain greater insight into the circumstances under which this organism 'blooms' or in other words how red tide populations are formed and ultimately controlled by naturally occurring viruses that infect them.
Science Expo at Littlebrook Elementary
Debashish presented the basics of biological classification to third through fifth graders at Littlebrook Elementary. He explained some of the taxonomic ranks by reference to the remarkable sea slug called Elysia chlorotica. In his presentation he showed that the sea slug Elysia chlorotica is a member of the animal kingdom at the time of its birth because its characteristics are "multicellular" and "it moves". During its life, through incorporation of plastids by eating the alga Vaucheria litorea, the sea slug is capable of doing photosynthesis and because of this new characteristic it can be classified as a photosynthetic animal later in its life. The young audience watched a video in which the sea slug sucks plastids out of Vaucheria. The groups discussed if humans might be able to do photosynthesis someday because - just like the sea slug - humans are ingesting plastids by eating fruits and vegetables. Debashish also showed pictures from his lab members and talked about what it is like to be a scientist.