On Monday, 22 September, Idea Swap hosted a guest speaker from SciHigh who gave a presentation on transgenic, glow-in-the-dark mice. Idea Swap is an innovation club whose main purpose is to bring youth together to share ideas. The presentation featured two living transgenic mice, which glowed red and green under blue light. SciHigh is an outreach program that brings science to students, and is based in the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital. Almost a hundred students attended the meeting, which took place during lunch in Room 111. This was Idea Swap’s first presentation of the new school year, and it did not disappoint.
Idea Swap was founded in September 2013 by Grade 11 student Dorothy Qian, and began with the goal of helping youth inspire other youth. “Everyone has inspirational ideas and interesting stories to tell. The problem is that no one really shares them, and they’re not brought out to help the community,” said Qian. Idea Swap provides a friendly and welcoming environment in which students can share their innovative ideas, and brings in guest speakers to encourage students to think in new ways. At the next meeting, students will be encouraged to discuss their ideas on transgenic animals.
Faiza Nuru, a SciHigh volunteer, was the first guest speaker of the year. She shared her knowledge and experience with animal models, and their applications in scientific research. The presentation discussed the basic reasons for which animals are used in scientific research, as well as the process through which the two glowing mice came to possess their unique quality. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) is taken from jelly fish and injected into mice when they are only single cell embryos. This, as the name suggests, gives mice the ability to glow green in the dark. There is also another version of the protein called red fluorescent protein (RFP), which causes mice to glow red. “These hands-on experiments get students excited about science, in a way a classroom setting cannot,” said Nuru. “It makes it more real for them.”
This experience was enlightening for many of the students present, and definitely sparked an interest in science within all those present.