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Vidal-Gadea Lab
Vidal-Gadea Lab
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                                            Science belongs to everybody!                                                    
We are honored to receive visitors from our community and beyond to share our passion about science and to provide interested individuals with opportunities to learn about scientific research, neuroscience, and our favorite animal, C. elegans.

We are always interested in arranging visits for any member of our community and at the moment we are thrilled to be in a partnership with College Mentors for Kids​, a growing nonprofit organization that pairs over 2,000 1st through 6th grade children with 2,300 local college mentors.

Our lab offers weekly after-school visits when kids learn about science and research, and participate in fun activities that will hopefully instill an early appreciation for the natural world and the pleasure afforded by its exploration.

If you are a parent interested in this program (or a potential sponsor) we recommend you visit their website which is filled with great information. If you have a lab and wonder how to communicate your love for science to our youngest citizens feel free to contact me (avidal@ilstu.edu). We typically begin our visits with a tour of the lab. We then perform one or two activities and we end up by looking at fluorescent worms under the microscope. It is stringly advisable not to allow the kids to see the glowing worms until the end or you might not be able to interest them in anything else after that! Below are some ideas for activities that you can do in your worm, or molecular lab. Similar activities sgould work in other settings. The sky is the limit!​

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​Magnetic fields and electromagnets:
One of the main projects in our lab deals with how animals detect the magnetic field of the earth.  Therefore, in one of our activities our visitors learn about magnetic fields and compasses. They construct an electromagnet (left) using a copper wire and a bolt, and use it to determine the magnetic properties of common household materials by observing their behavior in the presence of an artifical magnetic field. The activity can be customized to last between 30 and 45 minutes.                             Magnetic cage for animal experiments (below)
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Isolation of DNA:
We study how genes and neurons produce animal behavior. In this activity children learn about the amazin way in which organisms store information in their DNA. After talking about DNA and building some DNA model molecules with pipe cleaners and marshmellows students we get to the business of isolating their own DNA (or that of frozen peas) using reagents commonly found in every household. We modified the great set of instructions found in the Live Science​ website to bring this fun experiment to students of different levels. The activity lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. 


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Magnetic worm Magnets:
We love worms, and we love magnetic fields. It probably comes as no surprise then that we also love worm magnets! In this activity children use Fimo clay (easybake) to make their own custom worm magnets. They usually take 15 minutes to assemble their works of art and we then cook them (in an autoclave) for about 45 minutes while they do a second activity. When the worm magnets come out of the oven they are ready to be fixed to a magnet and to receive their googly eyes. Kids get t o take their creatins home which is always a plus for them!


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Food preference by worms (chemotaxis):
For the older kids in the crowd (grades 6th and 5th) we have a real research activity where students test the taste preference of C. elegans worms. We begin the experiment by taking a poll of the favorite condiments children prefer in their food (e.g. mustard, ketchup, mayo, popcorn butter, etc.). once we have these numbers we then place worms in the center of a colorful agar plate (colored using food coloring, left). On either side of the worms we then place a drop of condiment or a control drop. After a few minutes we tally the number of worms that went to the condiment versust the number of worms that went away from it. We can then compare the condiment preference of worms to the condiment preference of our visitors!
Hint: C. elegans absolutely love popcorn butter!