Of yeast, colorants, coke and more

Students visit the Leibniz-HKI for “Forsche Schüler Tag” 2024

| by Friederike Gawlik

Group picture of the "Forsche Schüler" students at Leibniz-HKI. Source: Friederike Gawlik/Leibniz-HKI
The young students visited the Leibniz-HKI for “Forsche Schüler Tag”. Source: Friederike Gawlik/Leibniz-HKI

On April 25, 2024, the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology – Hans Knöll Institute (Leibniz-HKI) once again opened its doors to curious young minds at the annual “Forsche Schüler Tag” at the Beutenberg Campus in Jena. Under the motto “Journey of discovery into the world of natural products and microorganisms”, the institute invited 31 inquisitive students to give them an insight into the fascinating world of natural sciences on the occasion of the Germany-wide Future Day 2024. The day was organized in cooperation with the Cluster of Excellence “Balance of the Microverse”.

What do you actually do in a laboratory? How do microbiologists work? How do fungi turn from friends to enemies? And probably the most important question of all: Do I have cocaine in my wallet? Answers to all these questions were provided today at the Leibniz-HKI. After an entertaining introduction to the history and work at the Leibniz-HKI, the event offered participants the opportunity to slip into the role of real scientists themselves: in small groups, the young talents carried out many exciting and amazing experiments in the institute’s laboratories under the guidance of the professionals. Into their lab coats, and then it was time to stain, pipette and microscope! The students quickly realized that working in microbiology can be very diverse. One of the highlights was undoubtedly the realization that the tiniest traces of cocaine can be detected on practically every banknote.

I really enjoyed the day – it was my first time and it’s really nice to be here. I found the separation process for extracting leaf dyes particularly interesting, says Justus, 14 years old. “Our work with microscopes was really fascinating. We counted fungi and even observed amoebae. They were so cute, almost like little pets,” said 13-year-old Elena and 14-year-old Rania. The equipment also impressed 13-year-old Julius: “The labs were full of cool equipment! It was great to experience science live and watch the scientists at work. But the best part was how we isolated DNA from fungi!”

We would like to thank everyone involved and look forward to the next time!