Children amazed by in vitro plants. Festa de la Ciencia III by "la UB Divulga".
Children amazed by in vitro plants. Festa de la Ciencia III by la "UB Divulga".

Students from 8- to 82-year-old enjoyed University of Barcelona science festival in its historic building cloisters. In this science festival (Festa de la Ciència) organized by the University of Barcelona researchers of all departments and research centers approach science and technology to students of all ages. The organization welcomed groups from local schools and high schools, but the activities were open to the public. Old biology students with their granddaughters were among the most interested visitors to the plant biology activities.

Researchers and students from the Plant Physiology section contributed to this outreach opportunity designing a few hands on experiences to showcase the importance of plants. A first table was dedicated to plant in vitro culture. Introducing the public to the amazing concept of plant totipotency. And how combining plant redifferentiation capacity with the strictly controlled and strictly clean in vitro environment researchers have generated an essential tool for basic research and the industry. Students were interested in the demonstrated applications, showcased with tubes and vessels of all shapes and sizes with diverse plant material. Micropropagation for the fast generation of precious identical ornamental flowers, how in vitro makes possible fast cycling breeding avoiding the limitations of seasons, and plant culture as a high value pharmaceutical biofactory provided relatable examples of these powerful techniques to students of all levels.

In another stall a memory-like match game awaited. There, visitors played with seeds of all sizes and shapes to understand that plants also move, and through many means! The objective was to explore the diversity of dispersal systems of seeds and fruits like coconuts, and those from maple, oak and Arabidopsis (clue: floating riding ocean waves, air dispersion, animals and mostly scientists!).

Never is too early to help combat plant blindness. As one lecturer recalled, first year biology and biotechnology students are sometimes amazed by the fact that plants have enzymes in their first plant biology classes. Nevertheless, the best visitors were two 23 years old Art History students that arrived 20 minutes late to their classes. They were just open eyed, amazed squeezing callus, roots and plantlets with their fingers while the idea of totipotency in plants settled.

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In vitro Gardenia plantlets. Festa de la Ciencia III by la "UB Divulga".
In vitro Gardenia plantlets. Festa de la Ciencia III by la "UB Divulga".