This year as part of British Science Week RGU offered a number of exciting workshops aimed at school pupils to ignite their passion for STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths).
We went along to the Rainforest Resources and Remedies workshop run by RGU’s School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences lecturer Dr. Morag McFadyen and the Duthie Park Ranger Service. This event was supported by the Aberdeen Airport Community Fund through the Friends of Duthie Park to enable pupils to find out more about the power of plants! School pupils had the opportunity to take part in two experiments, learning all about the science of perfume and extracting DNA from a kiwi fruit.
The Power of Plants
Have you ever stopped to think about just how influential plants are in our everyday life? Take the mint you may have growing in your garden. It is great to use in cooking, can be used to make tea, and is a common flavour in chewing gum and toothpaste.
Perhaps you have lavender growing in your garden? It is used as a perfume but also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and is great for relaxation.
Various plants also have medicinal properties that can be used in the healthcare profession by pharmacists or nurses eg. the periwinkle plant that gives us important cancer-fighting medicines.
It is amazing what plants can offer us!
The Chemistry of Perfume
Pupils got an overview about perfumes and learned that the same plant can have different scents produced from the flower petals and the leaves. They learned about how scents are constructed and about “notes”. Notes are separated into three classes. The top note (which is more volatile and evaporates the quickest), the middle/heart note and base note (which contain larger chemicals which evaporate the slowest meaning longer lasting scent).
The pupils were all given a fruit tea bag from which they would make their own perfume.
The first task was to open the tea bag and put the tea in the water. Shake, and let the fragrance infuse.
Take your filter paper and place it in a funnel, pour your tea/water solution in and let it drain so you are left with a clear liquid.
Take some of your tea sample and add to the perfume tube along with liquid Glycerin. Ta-da, your very own fruit tea perfume!
DNA Extraction from a Kiwi
What makes a kiwi a kiwi? It’s the DNA of course! DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid and it contains the genetic code for all living organisms whether it is a plant or animal or bacteria.
To start the extraction of the kiwi’s DNA, school pupils put the kiwi in a sealed bag and squashed it to break it up. An extraction buffer (salt and soap solution) was then added to the bag (10ml) and the bag kneaded for 1 minute.
The kiwi solution was then poured into the filtration apparatus and left to drip into a test tube.
Cold ethanol was then slowly poured into the test tube, this helped to precipitate out the DNA.
Now it was time to watch. Pupils then dipped the wooden skewer into the tube and gently removed where the kiwi and ethanol layers came into contact. That frog spawn looking layer is the kiwi DNA!
If you have an interest in biology and chemistry, physics and maths we have a number of different options at RGU. Pharmacy, Applied Biosciences and Forensic and Analytical Sciences to name a few. Find out more about the courses in our School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences.