Saturday Science at Discovery with McArdle

Dr. Spurgeon at Saturday Science table

Dr. Megan Spurgeon, Associate Scientist, teaching about the link between viruses and cancer at Saturday Science at Discovery. 

On Saturday, September 14th, volunteers from the McArdle Laboratory and the Institute for Molecular Virology teamed up to teach children and families from the community about viruses and cancer at the Morgridge Institute’s Saturday Science at Discovery event.

Saturday Science at Discovery is a monthly series that features fun, interactive learning stations for families and kids of all ages to learn about different science topics. The event typically takes place on the second Saturday of each month, and this month’s theme was Healthy Living with an overall focus on cancer.

The Institute for Molecular Virology set up a learning station on rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. The learning station also taught children how to measure viruses using plaque assays and how to identify viruses using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and virus sequencing.

The McArdle Lab organized a station focused Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and how it, along with some other viruses, can also cause cancer.

“You hear virus and think of it as causing the flu or a cold. The link between viruses and cancer is something that a lot of people don’t know or think about. So, bringing awareness is useful,” said McArdle volunteer and Associate Scientist Dr. Megan Spurgeon.

The McArdle Lab volunteers taught families how antibodies can protect cells from the virus and that those antibodies can be formed by receiving the vaccine.

The kids interacted by clipping model antibodies to a colorful HPV virion structural model. Parents were as excited to learn as the kids and asked just as many questions, reported Spurgeon.

“I think anytime we can increase awareness about the vaccine, its safety, and its efficacy, we’re doing everyone a favor,” said Spurgeon.

In addition, the station featured a scientific comic book station where children could color viruses and take home a cancer virus-themed comic book designed by JKX Comics, A STEM-themed comic book company co-founded by Jaye Gardiner, a former McArdle graduate student. You can learn more about the scientific comics here.

Dr. Nate Sherer at Science Saturday.

Dr. Nate Sherer teaching about the link between viruses and cancer at Science Saturday at Discovery.

By Dominique Barthel (