Showcasing the chemistry that plays out in our kitchens every day, the students from “Bonding with Food,” an advanced chemistry course, will host an Edible Science Fair on Tuesday, March 6. The event will begin at 6 p.m. in the Vandervort Room.
“Everyone deserves to understand the underlying principles, chemical or otherwise, of their daily activities,” says Associate Professor of Chemistry Justin Miller. “While students are learning to apply chemistry knowledge outside the realm of traditional laboratory science, perhaps more important is the benefit to the community. Public education efforts like the Edible Science Fair and the Public Information Campaign are meant to stimulate meaningful discussion about the connection between food and chemistry, and to get people to think about using a different perspective about what and how they eat.”
Every station at the Science Fair will use food preparation to showcase a variety of chemical principles, including crystallization, gels, and leavening, among other phenomena that occur in food. More specific topics include gluten, which is the combination of wheat proteins that makes good bread but also causes Celiac disease, and the Maillard reaction, which makes grilled, broiled, and roasted foods golden brown and delicious.
“The edible part of this event is up to the students,” explains Miller, who notes that the exact parameters of the menu have not yet been determined. “I know that liquid nitrogen will be involved to demonstrate the principle of crystallization, which likely means ice cream. I have to imagine that there will also be jelly or jello from group demonstrating gels, and some form of deliciously browned meat or other grilled/roasted food from the Maillard reaction group. We’ll all have to just come and see what else will appear!”
This is the second time that Miller has taught the class, which is intended to make both the students and the broader community more aware of the science that surrounds them.
“It’s clear to me that edible products help students draw connections to the course material-not just from this course, but from other courses they’ve already taken,” says Miller. “In the end, when students enjoy what they’re doing, they learn better. They enjoy spending time in my kitchen, ‘playing’ with food-but of course, it’s highly structured, scientific ‘play.'”
The “Bonding with Food” course is funded through a Center for Teaching and Learning grant.
The event is free and open to the public, including families with children of all ages.
For more information about kitchen chemistry, check out the class’s blog: http://bondingwithfood.wordpress.com/.