The University of Montana’s spectrUM Discovery Area hosted a “Building with Biology” theme day where visitors of all ages had the opportunity to design a “super-organism” to solve a problem, extract DNA from wheat germ, and meet with role models in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Hosted in partnership with We Are Montana in the Classroom, spectrUM’s monthly free days provide all community members with access to hands-on enrichment and role models in higher education and careers.

UM role models who will led activities at this month’s free day included Assistant Professor Monica Serban (Material Sciences Program), Research Assistant Professor Celine Beamer (Center for Environmental Health Sciences), Assistant Research Professor Alyson Smith (Division of Biological Sciences and Inimmune) and Cassie Buhl (DBS and Inimmune Corp.), Assistant Professor Orion Berryman (Department of Chemistry), spectrUM Staff Scientist Amanda Duley and graduate students Joanna Kreitinger (Division of Biological Sciences) and Kristian Stipe (Department of Chemistry). UM’s role models will be joined by Missoula County Commissioner Cola Rowley, Rivertop Renewables scientists Kelly Barton and Jon Speare, and Rocky Mountain Laboratories scientists Lara Myers and Brea Hampton.

“These activities are great ways for the public and scientists to explore ideas together as well as for learners of all ages to explore synthetic biology and its applications in society,” said Duley, who is coordinating the July event.

We Are Montana in the Classroom, part of the UM Broader Impacts Group in the Office of Research and Creative Scholarship, partners with more than 100 UM faculty members, professionals and graduate students to inspire K-12 students about higher education and career pathways. Last academic year, the initiative reached over 10,000 students through statewide tours, classroom visits and distance-learning experiences. We Are Montana in the Classroom is partnering with spectrUM to host six free, monthly community days in 2016.

The Building with Biology project is funded by the National Science Foundation and led by the Museum of Science, Boston. Building with Biology events are taking place at over 150 museums and institutions throughout the country from June to September 2016.

SpectrUM’s museum is located at 218 E. Front St. and is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission usually costs $3.50 per person, but will be free for all visitors all day Friday, July 22.