It’s mid-July. You’re at Rehoboth Beach with your family, and it’s a sunny and sizzling 90 degrees. You’ve got the beach chair, towel, and cooler of snacks and cold water. But, you forgot the sun protection! Do you risk the burn, or run to the store? What should you get?! Will a beach umbrella suffice? What’s the difference between ‘all natural’ and general store brand sunscreens? What’s all the fuss about a chemical called oxybenzone?! In our current culture of big data, and information at our fingertips, it’s becoming increasingly valuable to be able to sift through large amounts of information and decipher for ourselves what is accurate or not.
These skills and more were practiced by students in the integrated Biology and Chemistry (iBC, BISC207/CHEM107) program in ISLL on November 28th and 29th, 2018. Over the course of 5 weeks, students in the iBC program developed science podcasts and experiments around the theme of UV protection. In the beginning of the 5 week project, students chose general science media articles on the topic of UV protection. The articles ranged in topics from why oxybenzone sunscreens are harmful to the ocean, how DNA can be used in sunscreens, to UV protection in hippo sweat. From these articles they developed and designed two major science communication projects.
The first project was a ‘live’ Science Podcast geared at a general audience. The goal: inform someone without a science background about protecting yourself from UV. Some ‘live’ podcasts aimed to inform the general public about the effects of oxybenzone on coral reefs. Others chose to debunk the science surrounding “edible sunscreens.” Science Communication experts Jill Karlson (Director of Public Programming) and Jennifer Acord (Director of Communication) from the Delaware Museum of Natural History came to help students understand the basics behind effectively communicating science. Equipped with this knowledge students dove into their projects, and produced novel podcasts with catchy jingles, punny podcast hosts, and blew away their audiences with easy to understand, accurate science news.
The following week, students concluded their five week project with poster presentations that described how they tested their hypotheses on UV protection and the data they collected in their experiments. From novices to experts, students capped off their first semester of biology by sharing their new knowledge and original research on UV exposure and protection.