Archive for June, 2011

June 22nd, 2011

“Can I resurrect my puppy?” and other DNA Microscopy questions from Thailand


Russell Durrett with MicroGlobalScope grantees of Ms. Gwenn Pettitt's 4th Grade Biology class in Bangkok, Thailand

MicroGlobalScope science advisor Russell Durrett Reports from his recent trip to Bangkok, Thailand.

What can we do with DNA? Can I resurrect my puppy? Can you mix some zebra cells with eagle DNA so it can fly? These are some of the questions MicroGlobalScope science advisor Russell Durrett fielded on his recent trip to Thailand to meet with MicroGlobalScope grantees.

In what he described as “an awesomely good time,” Russell visited the classroom of MicroGlobalScope grantee Ms. Gwenn Pettitt at the International Community School in Bangkok, Thailand. Russell is a Synthetic Biologist and Co-Founder of GenSpace NYC , a non-profit community biology lab located in Brooklyn, NY, that provides professional biology laboratory space for individuals to conduct molecular biology research cheaply and safely.

Russell spent a few days speaking with Ms. Pettitt’s elementary class, the high school AP biology classes and some kids interested in genetic engineering as well biology and microscopy.

“I started coordinating with Ms. Pettitt early in January. She started talking to the other teachers in the school and I ended up speaking to the 4th graders in the morning, the 9th grade biology class at noon, the upper-class high school biology classes that afternoon and then the 4th grade after school program where we did the microscopy and fruit extraction experiments.


Students prepare their fruit extraction materials.

“The really cool thing I noticed was that the high schoolers were asking the same questions as the 4th graders. ‘What can we do with DNA?’ ‘Can I resurrect my puppy?’ ‘Can you mix some zebra cells with eagle DNA so it can fly?’ ‘Why are people making things that glow so often, and how does that work?’ All the students knew that certain traits were due to certain genes being present, but not really how DNA translated into a phenotype.

“One of the students, was curious about the difference between Asian people and Caucasian people and if I could tell if I compared her and my DNAs.”

During the DNA extraction, the most common question was what you can do after you extract it.

Q: ‘Can you tell the difference between the watermelon and the dragon fruit’?

A: ‘If I cut them with the same pair of DNA scissors, then I can compare the chunks with those I know come from watermelon and dragon fruit’


Materials for the microscopy challenge await the microscope.

“The microscopy challenge was to image crystals,” Russell said. “They did a pretty good job. We had brown sugar, sugar, instant coffee, instant green tea (both vacuum dehydrated, so they had ok crystals) and possibly some other stuff. Bangkok is built on a marshland, so they typically find some cool bugs around their school and image them. In all, they’re doing a great job and the kids are asking a lot of great questions. I’m looking forward to seeing this program expand in the future.”

Thanks for the update, Russell, and thanks to our intrepid MicroGlobalScope grantees for their passion for science!

MicroGlobalScope students show their serious side.

June 14th, 2011

Grantee enjoys math’s ‘delicious flavor’

Juan Carlos Ortiz Rhoton with his "tasty" math books. (Image posted with permission from the Ortiz Rhoton family.)

Juan Carlos Ortiz Rhoton from Guadalajara, Mexico loves math as much as he loves food!  He got in touch with Science House Foundation to thank us for supporting the Art of Problem Solving, Worldwide Online Olympiad Training, known as WOOT. With the gentleman’s gracious permission, excerpts of his letter have been posted below along with the story of his new skills and magnificent experience.

Art of Problem Solving is a natural fit for Juan Carlos. The organization works to help develop math skills through online coursework, games and curriculum development. WOOT is their preparation and testing program that brings together many of the best students from around the world to learn their “Olympiad problem solving skills”.

After completing WOOT, grantee Juan Carlos (pictured above) wrote us an eloquent and intriguing letter to share the math equations he solved and to thank the Science House Foundation for supporting his in participation.

Wrote Juan Carlos:

I realized how much I had to learn, that the process was long, life lasting I could say. But aside from Math, I also learned to find the process very “tasty”, it was like not only “eating” Math to get full, but to enjoy its delicious flavor while eating it. …The joy of learning became meaningful and therefore, my level of resilience increased.

I enjoyed all the problems in WOOT, whether I solved them or not, because they taught me something. I think my favorite problem from all those that I solved in WOOT, though not by far, is problem number 5. It is challenging, though not very much. I didn’t solve it in the test it came in (called Practice Olympiad), but I found it wonderful when I solved it afterwards. (EDITOR’S NOTE: If you want to take a chance at solving problem 5, see below for the problem and a special note from Juan Carlos).

Thank you all, Science House Foundation Team, for helping students achieve a deeper level of understanding how the world works.

Juan Carlos, thank YOU! You (and the many young people around the world with whom you share an interest in math) are the reason why Science House Foundation was created. The effort that you are willing to make to create a future for this planet that includes a fine citizen like yourself is why we work together at Science House Foundation each day. It makes us happy to see you succeed.

And for those of you who have patiently waited for problem 5…pencils ready!

Without further delay:

“Let P be the set of all primes, and M be a subset of P containing at least three elements. For any proper subset A of M, all of the prime factors of the number (∏p€Ap) – 1 (the product of all elements of A minus 1) are in M. Prove that M=P.”

A note from Juan Carlos:

I find this problem interesting because it is fun. I used all the techniques I like and find useful. Seeing small cases (like proving that 2, 3, 5, 7 and 11 are in M) is useful and gives hindsight of the problem.

Proving that M is infinite is a natural step and is also useful. That was a difficult part. The proof seemed to come naturally, although it took some time. The last part, proving M=P, is the one I didn’t prove in the test (3 hrs. for 3 problems). It needs the Pigeonhole Principle to be completely solved, but I found out after the time limit.

I am attaching both, the official solution which is given to us 2 weeks after the submission deadline (first 2 pages), and my own (pages 3 and 4).


June 13th, 2011

MicroGlobalScope Featured in Serbian News

Science House Foundation project MicroGlobalScope which provides primary schools around the world with microscopes, was recently featured in Serbian television.

MicroGlobalScope grantee Ivo Andrić a primary school in Belgrade, Serbia was cited on Serbian television for their MicroGlobalScope grant, research and their creative motivation in applying for the grant. The report is in Serbian with English subtitles provided by dotSUB. You can view the translated news story and background on the dotSUB website.

Congratulations Ivo Andrić!