Outreach resources: SEBBM workshops

SEBBM has translated a set of outreach workshops in biochemistry and molecular biology into English to share with other FEBS Constituent Societies and FEBS Network colleagues who might be interested in running them in their respective countries.

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Science communication and outreach is a crucial activity for The Spanish Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (SEBBM). The Society prioritises the need to be evidence-based, independent, clear, engaging, current and of public interest with its output. And SEBBM has ambitious aims: for the public to gain a solid foundation in key scientific topics, understand the research process, and think critically about the science information they come across. To achieve this SEBBM has a range of publications and activities, including these workshops, where they explore concepts in biochemistry and molecular biology in an engaging but sufficiently in-depth way (www.sebbm.es).

SEBBM has run these workshops in Madrid for the European Researchers’ Night since 2010. The European Researchers’ Night is a yearly science outreach event that takes place on the last Friday night of September in more than 370 cities across Europe and nearby countries. The event, which is funded by the European Commission, brings researchers closer to the public with activities that raise “public awareness of the positive role of research in society – particularly among young people.”

During these Nights SEBBM has taken its workshops into some of the most beautiful buildings in Madrid, from the literary Cervantes Institute and the Francisco Giner de los Ríos Foundation to the Fine Arts Circle, to promote the role of science in society.

Some of the workshops have also been held during the Science Week. This is one of the largest science communication and outreach initiatives in Spain. Research centres throughout the country open their doors each year in November to invite the public to learn more about science and research, using a multitude of different activities and talks. One year SEBBM had the public sticking their tongue out in the name of science during its “Biochemistry with a lot of sense” workshop.

SEBBM also runs workshops in collaboration with the Cervantes Institute each year, taking advantage of the Institute’s wide network of international venues to take the workshops to different countries. The popular “The molecules we eat” workshop has taken yoghurt spheres and alcoholic eggs from Madrid to Moscow, and back via Istanbul and Casablanca.

All the workshops have received consistently good feedback from participants, which is why we are keen to share them.

Visit the SEBBM website for more information and photos of past workshops.

Access the workshops:

A biochemist in the kitchen workshop 1 SEBBM

In this workshop the humble egg is used to explore biochemical processes and concepts.  Participants bounce, float and paint eggs, as well as make meringues and mayonnaise, while learning about acid-base reactions, osmosis, pH, protein structure, concentration, density and emulsions.

Biochemistry with a lot of sense workshop 2 SEBBM

In this workshop participants explore their sense of taste and smell, and learn about olfactory disorders, being a “supertaster”, and the importance of smell in the flavour of food.

Come to the lab workshop 3 SEBBM

In this workshop participants get introduced to the materials and equipment used in the laboratory and carry out a simple experiment (DNA extraction from salmon sperm).

Saliva DNA extraction workshop 4 SEBBM

In this workshop participants extract DNA from their mouth cells and get to take it home.

The molecules we eat workshop 5 SEBBM

In this workshop participants use common foodstuffs to detect glucose in milk, fry an egg using cold ethanol, use red cabbage as a pH indicator, or perform molecular gastronomy spherifications with yogurt.

The workshops are protected under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license. Please reference the Spanish Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology if you copy or adapt the workshops. We welcome suggestions and corrections to the workshops: please use the comments section of this post to send us your feedback.

SEBBM hopes these workshops will inspire FEBS colleagues to carry out more outreach projects around biochemistry and molecular biology.

Isabel Varela Nieto and Fiona Veira-McTiernan

Isabel Varela Nieto

Research Professor, CSIC

Dr. Isabel Varela-Nieto graduated and earned her doctorate in Chemistry, Biochemistry Section, at the University Complutense of Madrid (Spain). She has been a visiting guest scientist at the Medical Schools of Uppsala (FEBS Fellow, Sweden) and San Diego (MEC Sabbatical, USA). She is Professor of Research at the CSIC and group leader at the CIBER of rare diseases (CIBERER, ISCIII) in Madrid. From the early 1990s she has been studying hearing neurobiology and IGF-1 actions. She was the first Chair of the SEBBM Science for Society working group with which she actively collaborates. She is currently the president of the SEBBM and a member of the FEBS Network working group and FEBS Science and Society Committee.

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