MTSU biologists share medicinal plant research at Nashville exhibition

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Biology assistant professor Iris Gao, left, and MTSU graduate students Shannon Smith and Matthew Fuller prepare to meet the public during one of their two visits to Adventure Science Center. They shared about botanical medicinal research and held hands-on sessions. (Submitted photo)

As part of the Adventure Science Center's "Wicked Plants" exhibition continuing through May 29 in Nashville, 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, participated twice in the exhibition on separate occasions earlier this year.

Tennessee Center for Botanical Medicine Research officials viewed it as an opportunity to interact with people, especially children, and serve our 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, hands-on stations, highlighting their research in front of more than 500 visitors.


The stations included:

• Tea tasting, where visitors could taste the ginseng or chrysanthemum tea.

• A bookmark station, where visitors could make their own bookmark with the leaf vein of medicinal plants.

• A plant terrarium station, where visitors could make their own terrarium with eight common medicinal plants.

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

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

For Smith, it was a "way of interacting with the public to introduce them to valuable concepts and help them question things."

Fuller said it was a "wonderful opportunity to help generate interest in the science and research that we do at MTSU and the botanical medicine research centers. 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 "partnership (with MTSU) will truly make our exhibition a much richer experience."

Gao said 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.

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