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From muscles to molecules, learn lots about science at the Beckman Institute this weekend

Beckman Institute on the University of Illinois campus

URBANA – As I enter the atrium of the Beckman Institute, natural light shines down on dozens of research projects.

Beckman Institute Open House 2023 Display features a Captain America shield. (Reginald Hardwick/IPM News)

I walk up to Luis Rodriguez Koett, an engineering Ph.D. student in the Autonomous Material Systems Group. He has a Captain America shield on his table.

“This, unfortunately, is very sturdy, very strong. It requires a lot of pressure and heat to make. So there’s a lot of waste that goes into making the material,” said Rodriguez Koett. 

He is one of many University of Illinois Urbana Champaign scientists trying to find ways to make plastics reusable. They also want to recycle the products without degrading their strength.

“How can we take these materials that have already been made, break them down to their original components and then reuse them for the same application?,” said Rodriguez Koett.

Organizers are expecting several hundred children to learn first-hand science lessons at the 2-day event.

Children are encouraged to paint and learn about science at the Beckman Institute Open House. (Reginald Hardwick/IPM News)

Kristin Giglietti is the education program manager with the Cancer Center at Illinois. Children are invited to a special ‘paint by numbers’ display. It’s a 3 by 5-foot grid on a canvas. 

“And the numbers all represent different colors of paint that we’ll use. The one that we’re currently working on is the DNA double helix so it looks like that spiral twisted staircase that some of us are familiar with,” said Giglietti.

The Beckman Institute’s open house is scheduled for Friday 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. a.m. and Saturday, April 1 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

A few feet away, Noelle James, a post-doctoral student in the Auerbach Neuroscience Lab, is testing the hearing of rats versus humans. The fuzzy creatures are not on display. The rats’ tests are displayed on a television screen.

“We work on hearing and how the brain thinks about hearing. And we use rats to do this. But we can’t ask a rat how loud does this sound? So instead, we use how quickly they can respond,” said James.

To be tested, human subjects put on one of several colorful headphones and react to different volumes of tone.

Noelle James, a post-doctoral student in the Auerbach Neuroscience Lab, stands over equipment for tests that will compare hearing and responses of humans and rats. People can take the hearing tests at the 2023 Beckman Institute Open House. (Reginald Hardwick/IPM News)
Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick is the News & Public Affairs Director for the Illinois Newsroom. He started at WILL in October of 2019 after serving as News Director for WKAR in East Lansing, Michigan. Previously, he was a news producer and manager at the NBC station in Dallas, where he won 7 Emmy awards. Born in Vietnam, Reginald is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado. Email: rh14@illinois.edu Twitter: @RNewsWILL

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