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Ag Open House to give visitors hands-on contact with DNA

Jim Barlow, Life Sciences Editor 
(217) 333-5802

2/11/2000

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Want to get your hands on a strand of real DNA?  Visitors can pretend to be a molecular scientist March 3-4 at one of several exhibits that reflect the “Beyond 2000” theme of this year’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) Open House at the University of Illinois.

Open House hours will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. The gateway to the 11th annual ACES Open House will be the Plant Sciences Laboratory, 1201 S. Dorner Drive, Urbana.

Inside the building, a hands-on, easy-to-use demonstration set up by the Biotechnology Center and the W.M. Keck Center for Comparative and Functional Genomics will give visitors a simple introduction to biotechnology, including photographs of the 3-D molecular structure of DNA.  In addition, from 11 a.m. to noon and 2 to 3 p.m. both days, visitors can mix real DNA in solution in test tubes and actually pull out a long strand of the genetic building block of life.

“ACES Open House gives us an opportunity to educate and interest our visitors on the many new ways we’re helping to shape our food, human and natural resource systems,” said Scottie Miller, associate director of development and director of special events for the college. This year, the Open House will have many new exhibits, she said.

In addition to the Plant Sciences Laboratory, exhibits and demonstrations will be set up in the Stock Pavilion, 1402 W. Pennsylvania Ave.; the Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building, 1304 W. Pennsylvania Ave.; and the National Soybean Research Center, 1101 W. Peabody Drive.  Also open will be the Meat Science Laboratory, near Pennsylvania Avenue and Maryland Drive, where visitors can purchase beef, pork and lamb products to take home.

Plenty of orange-and-blue Illini ice cream, sandwiches, snacks and drinks will be available in the Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building and Plant Sciences Laboratory.

In addition to the new exhibits scattered throughout the four main buildings, many of the usual favorites will be back.  Visitors can milk a cow; see leaf-cutter ants at work; plant seeds; watch a sheep-shearing demonstration; and pet pigs and other animals.  ACES deans and faculty and staff members will be on hand to answer questions about UI educational programs, research and outreach, as well as about the plans for the new South Farms and the ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center, now under construction.

Visitors traveling in groups of 10 or more can get assistance at the Stock Pavilion.  Prospective ACES students also can arrange organized walking tours around campus.

Other building-by-building highlights include:

• Plant Sciences Laboratory:  plant and insect sensory garden; the World of Illinois Insects; the role of worms in agriculture; hands-on fun for children; floral design to music.

• Stock Pavilion:  academic program information; animals, including Chinese pigs; facts and fallacies about genetically modified organisms.

• Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building:  environmentally friendly fuel; improving water quality; solar energy research; the science of popcorn.

• National Soybean Research Laboratory: “The Diversity of Life,” a multi-media, interactive program for all ages, in the auditorium, at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

New parking arrangements are planned for this year.  Guests may park free at the south end of University Lot F-14, just east of Assembly Hall at First Street and St. Mary’s Road.  Free shuttle service will run from there to the Plant Sciences Laboratory, the Stock Pavilion and the College of Engineering Open House on the north end of campus.  On Saturday, on-street and campus lot parking will be available.

There is no admission charge to the Open House, which draws more than 20,000 visitors each year.