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Explorations of Milk: From evolution and culture to chemistry and health

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Milk is a fascinating substance that permits explorations into evolutionary theory, cultural attitudes, chemistry of macronutrients and micronutrients, enzymatic breakdown of lactose, biological variation, 'normality' and public health implications. Our module will explore both food processing and digestion using milk as a case study. Participants can perform a common food processing technique (making milk into cheese), and then examine how this and other food processing and treatments affect lactose content. Labs for titrating calcium and separating macronutrients will also be introduced.

We will also discuss other directions classes could go with this theme including: learning about the scientific method (observation, hypothesis testing, analysis), performing sensory analysis, conducting comparative analysis of milk content and looking for life history and environmental factors, conducting interviews on people’s associations with 'milk' and analysis of textual data, hypothesis generation about adaptation and evolution, and arguing a position based on evidence for the role of milk in public health.

About the Presenters

Melissa K. Melby

Assistant Professor,

Department of Anthropology​

Melissa Melby is a chemist turned biological/medical anthropologist, who also happens to lack lactase and be lactose intolerant herself. Her interest in LI turned from personal to professional when she taught a series of milk labs in Nutritional Anthropology to allow students to explore biological and cultural aspects of humans' complicated relationship with milk. She is excited to share her explorations in milk, and learn from other teachers.​

​Trevo​r Daly


Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratories​

Trevor Daly is a preceptor in the Integrated Science Learning Laboratories at UD, where he works primarily with students in introductory chemistry and biology courses. His interests in science and in food inspired him to create 'Snack Science,' an interdisciplinary course in which UD students apply their knowledge of chemistry and biology to learn more about the foods they eat every day, including milk and dairy products.​

​​Judi Free​

Lab Coordinator

Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratories

As the Laboratory Coordinator for the Interdisciplinary Science and Learning Laboratories’ (ISLL) at the University of Delaware, Judi coordinates with the ISLL team to plan and administer the laboratories’ ISLL courses offered through the College of Arts and Science.  She also assists in planning and hosting a variety of outreach workshops, courses and special events.  Judith brought to the ISLL team her experience of interdisciplinary science as a teacher of biology, chemistry and physics at Mercy High School in Baltimore, Maryland.​​

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Explorations of Milk: From evolution and culture to chemistry and health
  • Interdisciplinary Science Learning Laboratories
  • 221 Academy Street, Suite 402
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-6400
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