“Who are the chemists of nature?”

Lange Nacht der Forschung (the Long Night of Research) is a science fair that takes place every two years in numerous locations across Austria. Entry is free and open for all, and visitors can get a flavour of all areas of science and technology through versatile activities such as experiments, exhibitions and presentations.

As in previous years, this May, the Elk Crew (Biocatalysis Research Group) from the University of Graz (UG) took part in the Long Night of Research with a set of experiments titled “Who are the Chemists of Nature?” organised by one of the CLASSY PhD students – Stefan Simic. This year, the exhibition showcased the universal presence of enzymes (“The Chemists of Nature”) in all living things, be it common microorganisms like mould and yeast, fruit and vegetables, or even exotic creatures such as luminescent bacteria from the deep sea.

The UG team entertained the visitors demonstrating through their experiments how an important enzyme, catalase, which is found in the human body and protects it from oxidative damage, can also be found in yeast and potatoes; and they could observe the enzyme in action experimentally. Stefan and colleagues also demonstrated the process of preparation of lactose-free milk from regular milk, allowing the visitors to experience the impact of enzymes and biotechnology in their daily life.

The event lasted six hours, attracting visitors from all walks of life and demonstrating the marvel of enzymes and their role in providing efficient and sustainable solutions for society. Reflecting on the event, Stefan Simic says “It’s personally a great pleasure to bring fascinating scientific phenomena closer to the public, and to see the excitement on people’s faces as they take part in the joy of discovery.”

We are glad to know that people of all ages can be closer to the world of science with the help of such fairs and we are looking forward to the next event with the CLASSY team participation.

Pictures from UG’s participation at the Long Night of Research in Graz. Top left: various microorganisms (yeast and bacteria) on Petri dishes (grown in the lab on a nutritious surface) and flasks showing how enzymes are extracted from a microorganism. Top right: tubes containing red cabbage juice at different pH values to demonstrate the use of red cabbage as an acid-base indicator. The water used to cook cabbage was combined with different acids and bases, resulting in the different colours depending on acidity. Bottom: Stefan Simic and colleagues explaining the experiments to the visitors during the event. The set-up for the demonstration of the preparation of lactose-free milk from regular milk can be seen on the table on the right of the picture.