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Plant researcher for a day

IPB hosts girls from the Hochschule Anhalt's STEM initiative

The participants of the "Make up your MINT!" excursion had a look through a fluorescence microscope (upper photo) and worked with transgenic potato plantlets (lower photo). The Anhalt University of Applied Sciences' initiative aims to inspire female High School students to study in the field of STEM.

„Say what? We're not a make-up channel?“, a young man clowns about into the camera. No, this YouTube channel wants you to „Make up your MINT!“. The initiative by Anhalt University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule Anhalt) combines guidance in choosing a field of study with video making for social media. With that approach, they aim to win female High School students over to study in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, German: MINT). Four girls soon starting their last year of High School recently visited the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry Halle (IPB) during one of their MINT excursions. Here, they had a chance to peek into the world of science.

After a tour through the institute showing greenhouses, phytochambers and laboratories, IPB female scientists from different career levels gave short talks for the guests. Which STEM subjects are out there to study, and which one suits me best? What is a typical career as a scientist in academia like, and what are the options outside academia? What kind of qualities and skills are required? Are family and career compatible in science? Annegret Laub (PhD student, Dept. Bioorganic Chemistry), Dr. Christin Naumann (PostDoc, Dept. Molecular Signal Processing) and Dr. Katharina Bürstenbinder (Head of Research Group Cellular Coordination) tried to answer these questions with their presentations and wove in their own experiences along their career paths. Afterwards a practical session awaited. In order to answer various questions in plant basic research, scientists frequently draw upon generation and analysis of transgenic plants. As a first step, one has to check whether this generating process has worked and the plant has become transgenic indeed. To illustrate this, colleagues from the group Induced Pathogen Defense led by Prof. Sabine Rosahl - who established the connection to the Hochschule Anhalt - prepared small experiments. The girls could have a try in loading mixes of DNA fragments onto an agarose gel. After separating these samples with electric current, number and size of the DNA fragments had to be determined. In addition, the participants tested potato roots by means of a color reaction to find out whether a so-called reporter gene had been succesfully introduced. At the end, everyone could have a look at a genetically modified version of a potato pathogen that was shining with green fluorescence under the microscope.

For the researchers those are everyday procedures and experiments. For the girls, that was the most exciting part, to get an impression of science done in laboratories in real-life, they say. The young ladies photographed and videotaped their excursion including experiments from every angle. At the end, a video from all excursions will be prepared and uploaded to the initiative's YouTube channel. Maybe this peek into the exciting real-life of research will help the High Schoolers to make up their minds to study science.

More photos and impressions can be found at the Make up your MINT! representations on social media. Links can be found here. You can watch the final video with footage of the girl's IPB excursion here.

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