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Researchers opened labs to public for BIO5 Open House

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Darien Bakas and Darien Bakas | The Daily Wildcat The Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building, also known as BIO5, on Helen St. and Cherry Ave. on Feb 1st.

The Discover BIO5 Open House and Reception was held on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The Thomas W. Keating Bioresearch Building, Bioscience Research Laboratories and Medical Research Building were opened to the public to showcase the work UA researchers do.

According to Lisa Romero, senior director of public affairs and engagement for BIO5 Institute, BIO5 refers to not only a building but also the science network that connects more than 300 researchers and almost 30 departments on campus.

“We imagined this event to be a way to welcome the Southern Arizona and larger Arizona community, because we actually have people coming down from Phoenix, as well,” Romero said. 

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They invited a variety of people, from researchers’ family members to high school students who are interested in science, to UA alumni, to people from Governor Doug Ducey's office.

Approximately 650 people registered for the event, and walk-ins were also welcomed.

Visitors enjoyed free food and four different activities: guided or self-guided lab tours, hands-on Discover Stations, the Idea to Impact Showcase Panel and KEYS alumni poster presentations.

KEYS is a summer intern program for high school students who want to work with UA researchers.

Lab Tours allowed visitors to learn and ask questions about 37 of the latest research projects on campus.

From the second to fourth floor of the bioresearch building, staff members were available to guide visitors to laboratories.

Each laboratory welcomed the visitors with students and research members showing the facilities and explaining their research using slides, models, posters and samples.

A laboratory that studies the effects of venom displayed a gila monster and small scorpions, which they use for the research.

Hands-On Discover Stations were located on the first floor of each of the three buildings. Visitors enjoyed small experiments in different genres of science. For example, they counted how many germs were on their phones. Some also enjoyed virtual realty with Google Earth.

Belana Horsinka and Jackie Wolgemunth are freshman students at Basis Tucson North Charter School. They are members of Asclepian Society, a biomedical club at Basis. They came to the open house after school with other club members instead of usual club activity.

“I liked [the event]. We learned a lot of different things,” Horsinka said. “If you’re taking bio, you’re kinda like, ‘Oh, yeah, like we did it in class!’ … You can see how stuff from we are doing in high school relates to your actual profession, which I thought was fun.”'

Horsinka and Wolgemunth said although they are too young to apply for the KEYS program, they are interested and thinking about applying when they turn 16.

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Romero said they wanted visitors to discover new things and experience the fun, exciting side of science.

“Sometimes people think of science as very dry and boring, scary,” she said. “A lot of times we don’t do a good enough job of showing the public what we do, so we wanted again to connect with our community in that way and just open our doors. This is usually a secured facility – we have really sensitive research going on here – but we wanted just to create this open atmosphere.” 


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