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MPSC is curious about biotechnology

posted Tuesday July 15, 2008
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is going beyond the headlines and the hype with its newest set of Science 360 programs to educate its guests about biotechnology and its uses.

Funded by the N.C. Biotechnology Center, the Science 360 Biotechnology Series explores the latest applications of genetic engineering; how biotechnology is affecting agriculture and the food we eat; and what makes stem cell research so exciting and controversial at the same time. Two of the three programs in the series, “Designer Foods” and “Genetic Engineering,” are available as part of Morehead’s summer program schedule.

Science 360, one of Morehead’s signature programs, is an engaging series of interactive programs focusing on current science and research topics. The National Science Foundation originally funded Morehead’s Science 360 as a way to improve communication and learning opportunities about current science.

For the Biotechnology Series, understanding the meaning and importance of biotechnology, one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing industries, is an over-arching theme found in all of the programs. Biotechnology is a collection of technologies that use living cells and biological molecules to solve problems and make useful products. Biotechnology makes use of processes ranging from fermentation to make beer, to genetic engineering and cloning.

The importance and prevalence of biotechnology applications is growing almost daily. Biotechnology is in our food, in our medicines and even in our forensics. Without biotechnology there would be no way to produce insulin for diabetics or link DNA to the scene of a crime. Biotechnology isn’t just everywhere. It's a big deal.

The Science 360 Biotechnology Series consists of three shows, “Designer Foods,” “Genetic Engineering” and “Stem Cells Demystified.” “Designer Foods” explores the story of one particular genetically-modified crop, Bt. corn, and why scientists are interesting in genetically modifying our food. “Genetic Engineering” teaches audience members about the ways that scientists modify bacteria to produce medicines like insulin. “Stem Cells Demystified” explains what stems cells are, how they function, why scientists are so interested in studying them and why some studies are controversial.

In addition to the live interactive presentation for each show Morehead also provides educational resources for teachers and students on its Web site. Resources include links to biotechnology education Web sites, bios of biotechnology professionals and a list of key terms.

The Biotechnology Series is funded by an Educational Enhancement Grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. N.C. Biotechnology Center is a government-funded private nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting biotechnology research, companies and education in the state of North Carolina.