Find a scientist in yourself


... April 2020


At the beginning of April 2019, under the baton of the All4Science civic association, a popular educational event called "Find a Scientist in Yourself" was held at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, aimed at schoolchildren of the fifth to eighth year at the primary school of Pavol Marcely at Drieňová 16 from Bratislava. The institutes of SAS that participated in the 3rd year of the event are the Institute of Materials and Machine Mechanics, Polymer Institute, the Institute of Experimental Medicine in cooperation with the Working Group of Experimental Cardiology, Slovak Society of Cardiology (SKS), Institute of Chemistry, Institute of Inorganic Chemistry and Center of Social and psychological sciences SAS.

The pupils of the eight year visited the Institute of Chemistry of SAS (ICh SAS), which is involved in this project every year, and the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry of SAS (IICh SAS), which welcomed the students for the first time. At the end of the event pupils were excited about experiments and various interesting information.

The aim of the event was to point out science and scientists from the contemporary point of view, which was served by an introductory lecture presented in an interactive form. Students were asked what a scientist looks like everyday. The answers were really variable and the lecturers finally worked with the pupils in a playful way to clarify what the scientist really does at the institute. Their interest in explaining increased so much that the lecturers eventually included all sorts of questions from everyday life, such as whether the microwave is really harmful, whether we prefer to use natural shampoos or why trees grow.

With a clear idea, after a while the students went to the laboratories of the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, where they learned some interesting facts about the burning of metals together with illustrative demonstrations. The female part of the audience thought more practical, and their fingernails glittered with powdered aluminum for a moment. After their eyes broke with too playful fire-fighters and explosions, they all came to chill with liquid nitrogen experiments. Pupils could smash a piece of discarded frozen chemical sheath or old chemical hose with impunity. They were also instructed about the osmotic law and the chemical bond energy law. The most interesting was the so-called. Leidenfrost effect that those who were not afraid could experience for themselves. Everything, of course, took place under the supervision of the responsible worker. And when they had enough nitrogen, they looked at the color spectrum emitted by the prepared solutions. The fascinating palette of colors was achieved by absorbing and converting ultraviolet light into visible radiation through various concentrations of rhodamine dyes in the inorganic montmorillonite emulsions that they likened to the colors of the rainbow.

At the Institute of Chemistry of the Slovak Academy of Sciences pupils tried to verify the truth of chemical reactions by deducing an individual case from general knowledge and tested a chemical experiment in the production of elephant toothpaste. Subsequently, they verified the opposite procedure, establishing general considerations on the basis of a case-by-case examination. They studied one type of non-Newtonian liquid with their own hands, learned how to make it, and tried to understand the unusual physical properties of the liquid at the molecular level. After washing their soiled hands, they tried applying the sample to the electrophoresis pathway, learned about testing the substances as possible vaccine components, and observed the detection of infection in tissue using fluorescence microscopy. Finally, they tried to inoculate the yeast onto solid soils, where they creatively drew various pictures using a microbiological handle in Petri dishes.

At the end of the event, the entire class took a picture along with a pompous spill of liquid nitrogen residue in front of the Institute building. The cheerful pupils went to the realm of fast food with class supervision and we remained hopeful that the information they had learned these days would be useful to them one day and that at least some of them had aroused interest in science and scientific research.

Students of 7th classes visited the institutes of the Center of Experimental Medicine (CEM) of the SAS. At the Institute for Heart Research CEM, (IHR CEM) students learned about interesting experimental methods used to monitor the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the regulation of heart function. In addition to the theoretical part on the fundamentals of the cardiovascular system, pupils had the opportunity to try pipetting the solutions onto the plate and into the gels, as well as to examine various animal tissues under a microscope. The novelty of this year and certainly the most entertaining part was the practical quiz competition, where pupils were willing to cooperate with interest in five locations where they could learn something new, as well as capitalize on the knowledge they had heard in the laboratories.

In an adventurous way of drug development, researchers from the Institute of Experimental Pharmacology and Toxicology of CEM (IEPT CEM) led pupils. During the introductory lecture they learned about individual steps in drug development. After the introductory lecture, pupils "ran" in the laboratories, where they learned how our lifestyle or diet affect memory, learning or physical performance. The demonstrations learned that animals that consume a lot of sugars and fats and have little movement do more difficult to remember where the islet in the pool to which they must supplement. They saw that such animals were more depressed and hiding in a new place for a long time. In healthy people, however, curiosity and the desire for knowledge always prevail. This also works for humans.

In the Cell Culture Laboratory, they found out what cell life is like, what cells look like, and how they can be used to develop drugs. They looked through a microscope to find out what pancreatic beta cells, which are involved in the regulation of metabolism, and what happens when they are in a hyperglycemic environment for a long time. Children also tried pipetting and experimenting to determine the amount of protein in the solution. They also met two rats - Freddy and Mercury, who showed them how they helped researchers do their work.

"Finally, the children have determined the amount of sugar found in their favorite drinks".

Our aim was for children to think and analyze the information in context. From several points of view, we presented the consequences of frequent drinking of cola, vine, radler, juices, nibbles, energy drinks. Nobody told the students during the whole event that they should not drink it or that they should only drink clean water. But they themselves said they wouldn't drink it anymore. They were brought to their conclusion by their own experience and not by information or a ban from their parent or teacher. Let's hope their decision lasts at least a few days :-).

At the Institute of Normal and Pathological Physiology, CEM (NPP CEM) presented the students with cardiovascular research through their own documentary and the students were then able to view and test many experimental methods in individual laboratories. In this way, students could try to prepare aorta or see living cells in a light microscope. They learned about the importance of movement at the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, where they tested changes in heart rate depending on stress conditions. This included blood pressure measurement, which has already become the focus of each action as an educational part of the cardiovascular system, but also as a simple preventive examination of biometric parameters and measured blood pressure values in young pupils and adolescents.

The Institute of Materials and Machine Mechanics (IMMM SAS) is one of the six institutes of the Slovak Academy of Sciences that have participated in the "Find a scientist in yourself" action. In the frame of this action, IMMM SAS has welcomed the sixth grade pupils from the primary school, Pavol Marcely from Bratislava in April 2019, for the third time. The action aims to promote interactive education of pupils in nature-scientific and technical subjects at the second level of primary school, motivate them to live and live activities in lessons and last but not least to increase their interest in science and research.

The fact that education is challenging, but could also be engaging and appealing, was demonstrated by a team of IMMM scientists who devoted their full attention to the pupils. Our colleague Naďa Beronská led an interactive lecture and discussion on "Materials all around us." The discussion aroused interest in why it is important to know materials and explore them. It has been found that the pupils know a lot about the materials, even if they cannot just name it correctly, so the IMMM team directed them a little.

Within the individual stations, the pupils have found together with Andrej Opálek, Miroslav Čavojský and Ľubomír Orovčík, what the materials consist of, what properties they possess and how to examine them? So they already know that the density and porosity of the materials are best demonstrated in the aquatic environment when the densest ones sink to the bottom, and the most porous ones float on the surface, but the pores are gradually filled with water, at least the open ones. They found that there was not all the gold that flashed when they analyzed brass with a chemical analyzer. And they made it clear that there was no need to bite the coins and break their teeth when they wanted to know if it is fake. They can handle it with a microhardness tester. And it didn't matter that they haven't had chemistry at school, yet. The fun was great.

No less interesting was the world of microscopy with Veronika Trembošová, Andrea Kušnierová, Štefan Nagy and Ľudmila Padúchová. How microscopes work and what is the difference between an optical and an electron microscope is already open sesame for these pupils. The microworld is amazing, and everything that has no legs and did not escape (scarves, mobiles, eyes, fingers, beetles, insects, coins, rose petals, etc.) has been observed. Since the electron microscope works on a different basis than the optical one and the samples need to be conductive to observe, it was clear that the gold-plated fly was the richest fly in Bratislava and the broader area at that time.
In the end, Tomáš Dvorák invited the pupils to the empire of tomography. Also, such 3D diagnostics by means of X-ray imaging can be very interested

The one day research on materials ended with a contest where individual teams were to weight the different kinds of materials in the shortest possible time. The best team could only be one, but all the young scientists have gained a sweet reward.

At the Institute of Polymers of SAS (PI SAS), almost 80 pupil attended in the event. They were familiar with the polymers, with their formation and their possible use. The visit to the Institute of SAS was supposed to support the curriculum of the subject: Technical education.

"Try something yourself and experience it is sometimes more than just hearing or reading in books"

This year contributed colleagues Zuzana Benková and Anita Eckstein to the knowledge of the students. Zuzana and Anita made clear the process of how a small atom creates a long polymer chain to the students. The team also included Anna Zahoranová, Peter Čakánek, Maria Kováčová, Eva Habánková, Robert Balogh and Alena Šišková, who presented interesting experiments and possibilities of using polymers in various forms at the individual stations. Since trying is sometimes more than hear the pupils had the opportunity to make their own gel capsules and at the same time to "touch" the properties, commonly available in hydrogels, which are contained, for example, in baby diapers. Pupils could test their absorbency and fluid retention. Using a microscope, pupils could zoom in on various materials that could not be recognized by the naked eye, based on the proteins and carbohydrates found in the body of the animals, demonstrating the presence of natural polymers all around us. For amusement, they could "boil" the slime of a dispersion adhesive as a monomer and soda bicarbonate as a crosslinker, and in a fun way to understand the formation of synthetic polymers. They tried to simulate various polymer chains, and special carbon nanotubes earned unexpected interest among pupils. During the visit to the laboratories they were able to make their own nanofibers and understand the importance of separation of plastic waste, its recycling and further use in everyday life.