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Cornell University


Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Communicating science at the Street Fair

Taking time to showcase their science, BESTie, Andrea Acevedo (Biophysics), together with, Tatsiana Kosciuk (BMCB), and Vishal Chaudhari (postdoc at Hanson Lab) volunteered to host a science activity during President Pollack's inauguration.  They expected 60 people, but had over 120 coming through. This is a summary of Andrea's experience: 

"As part of my experience in communicating science, I presented an experiment at the inauguration Street Fair for President Pollack. Together with some other volunteers, we offered the miracle berry experiment.

As people approached we told them that the sellers of this pill claim that it changes how some foods taste, and we will test this by taking the pill, dissolving it, and trying different food groups (sour, sweet, salty, umami, bitter). While the pill was dissolving in the participant's mouth, we told them some funny small facts about taste. We guided the participant to conclude which food group changed (sour food become sweet), and how the mechanism worked.

The miracle berry contains a protein that binds to the sweet receptor weakly, but when the pH of the environment changes, this binding is enhanced. So when trying sour food like lemons, the pH in the tongue decreased, and in reality the participant was tasting the miracle berry. 

This event was very entertaining for the participants and for us. They were able to practice some scientific concepts beforehand, as well as inquire about a specific topic in biochemistry. We had fun communicating some concepts, like protein-receptor interaction, but the most gratifying part was sharing our passion for science!"