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MTSU biologists share medicinal plant research at ...

MTSU biologists share medicinal plant research at Adventure Science Center

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As part of the Adventure Science Center’s “Wicked Plants” exhibition, underway through May 29, MTSU students and faculty in the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research presented a series of events featuring medicinal plants.

Assistant professor Iris Gao and two of the MTSU center’s graduate students, Shannon Smith and Matthew Fuller,  have participated in the exhibition twice this year.

MTSU biology assistant professor Iris Gao, left, and graduate students Shannon Smith and Matthew Fuller prepare to meet the public during one of their two visits to Adventure Science Center. They discussed botanical medicinal research and conducted interactive sessions. (Photos submitted)

MTSU biology assistant professor Iris Gao, left, and graduate students Shannon Smith and Matthew Fuller prepare to meet the public during one of their two visits to Adventure Science Center. They discussed botanical medicinal research and conducted interactive sessions. (Photos submitted)

Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research officials viewed the visits as opportunities to interact with people, especially children, and serve the community, Gao said.

“Through the exhibition, we hope to raise awareness for scientific research, particularly on herbal medicine research, and also to make science education more interesting and meaningful,” Gao said.

“It’s exciting to share the knowledge derived from our research with the community. All these make us feel fulfilled about what we are doing.”

In the first visit, the MTSU trio hosted three interactive stations, highlighting their research in front of more than 500 visitors.

The stations included:

  • Tea tasting, where visitors could sample ginseng and chrysanthemum tea.
  • A bookmark station, where visitors could create their own bookmarks with the leaf vein of medicinal plants.
  • A plant terrarium station, where visitors could make their own terrariums with eight common medicinal plants.
A Nashville-area family makes leaf bookmarks in a craft developed by MTSU Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research personnel during an Adventure Science Center exhibit.

A Nashville-area family makes leaf bookmarks in a craft developed by MTSU Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research personnel during an Adventure Science Center exhibit.

Gao, Smith and Fuller delivered a live science presentation to the public in the Cosmic Rays Theater on their second visit.

During the lecture, the three biologists talked about the history of medicinal gardens, medicinal plant compounds and ongoing medicinal plant research topics.

“It was a way of interacting with the public to introduce them to valuable concepts and help them question things,” Smith explained.

“This was a wonderful opportunity to help generate interest in the science and research that we do at MTSU and the botanical medicine research center,” Fuller added. “Seeing and helping to inspire the next generation of scientists was a reward in and of itself.”

Tiffany Ellis Farmer, director of education and community engagement at Adventure Science Center, told Gao that the facility’s educational partnership with MTSU “will truly make our exhibition a much richer experience.”

“People are interested to know how medicinal plants can be helpful for their life and health, and we feel excited and privileged to spread the knowledge in the community,” Gao said.

For more information about the botanical medicine research center, call 615-494-8681 or visit www.mtsu.edu/tcbmr.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

MTSU graduate student Shannon Smith, representing the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research at the university, talks about genomics to visitors attending the Nashville Adventure Science Center’s “Wicked Plants” exhibition earlier this year.

MTSU graduate student Shannon Smith, representing the Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research at the university, talks about genomics to visitors attending the Nashville Adventure Science Center’s “Wicked Plants” exhibition earlier this year.


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