The University of Toronto hosted its 8th annual Science Rendezvous on May 9, 2015. This free event was held outdoors on St. George Street and focused on bringing public awareness, especially to children, of the exciting advancements in science and technology. Over 30 Molecular Genetics volunteers, including faculty and students, gathered bright and early on Saturday morning to set up 7 different exhibits, including: banana DNA extraction, How Unique Are You? (comparing genetic traits to population frequency), model organism showcase, code breakers (using the genetic code to decode secret messages), Marvelous Microbes, and more. Mikko Taipale, Martha Brown, and Julie Claycomb were key MoGen faculty contributors, and supplies were supported by an outreach component of an Ontario Early Researcher Award to Julie Claycomb

As a testament to the hard work and popularity of the MoGen exhibits, all of the booths were flooded by crowds of excited children and parents. Spirits started high, but halfway through the day the banana DNA extraction booth started running out of bananas, ice was melting under the hot sun, Build-A-Bug was running low on craft supplies and volunteers were beginning to look a little ragged. Thankfully, under the calm and collected guidance of GSA vice-present Javier Hernandez and armed with coffee and donuts generously provided by Dr. Julie Claycomb, the MoGen volunteers resiliently stayed energetic and braved the storm, all the while still providing meaningful scientific answers and guidance.                                                                     

At the end of the day, after months of planning and hard work, Javier had this to say: “it was a great time interacting with the public and showing them the work we do here in MoGen”. The self-dubbed “fearless leader” also added, “it was refreshing to see that extracting DNA from fruit and building DNA out of candy can still bring out a child-like excitement from the grad volunteers”.

Events such as Science Rendezvous are not only a fun way to interact with the general public, but are also a great opportunity to educate the public on the impact of our research and to inspire a new generation of children to pursue careers in science. If you are interested in helping next year, the GSA is always welcoming more volunteers. Just make sure to stay well caffeinated.