• Question: What was your first project of science?

    Asked by Barbie to Alex, Ana, Clay, Keegan, Mark on 28 Apr 2016.
    • Photo: Alexander Taylor

      Alexander Taylor answered on 28 Apr 2016:

      My first science project was for a high school science fair. I bought four mice that were all different colors, and I wanted to find out what genetic variants they had (their genotypes) that determine their coat color. The question turned out to be much more complicated than I originally thought, and I ended up breeding hundreds of mice in the basement of my house for a few months. My parents were not pleased with the smell, but thankfully they indulged my obsession! In the end of the day, I figured out the original genotypes, won the science fair, and released several hundred mice into the field across from my house. To this day, we occasionally see a white mouse in that field.

    • Photo: Mark Ritchie

      Mark Ritchie answered on 29 Apr 2016:

      My first science project occurred when I was 12 and I made a solar water distiller (purifying water using the heat of the sum). Interestingly, designing solar water distillers is still an exciting frontier of science!

    • Photo: Clay Robinson

      Clay Robinson answered on 4 May 2016:

      We did some projects in my plant science labs in college, but the first I really remember started in an internship working for a seed company in the summer before I graduated from college. I started working for that company after I completed my BS degree.
      The company did research on triticale, a cross between wheat and rye. There is natural variation in plants, and these kinds of crosses create even more variability. I was responsible for taking notes on the performance of the different crosses that had been made. I went through the plots and removed the plants that were obviously different. I helped with harvest, and kept records on the yields and characteristics of the grain and forage. I prepared seeds to plant for the next year’s trials. And then the following year, I started preparing the plants to make new crosses. Triticale is a type of grass and has a perfect flower, and so in order to make a cross with another type of triticale, you have to remove the stamen (the male part of the flower) without injuring the pistil (the female part of the flower). You have to do this for every spikelet on the head, which may be 30 or more, and every spikelet has 3 florets (little flowers). The parts are small so you have to use small scissors and tweezers. Some people even use magnifying glasses. Once that is done, you bag the head so that it does not accidentally get pollinated by another plant.
      When the time is right, you get a head from a plant that is shedding pollen, and shake it next to the female head you created after removing the bag.
      At the end of the season, you harvest the head, thresh the grain, and plant each seed separately (usually in a greenhouse) and start the process of selecting the plants with desirable characteristics all over again.