Posted: February 27, 2017, 4:40pm
On Friday, my lab, the USC Laboratory for Living Systems Engineering (LLSE), hosted about 80 students from the Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet High School to show them around our research space and reinforce a few topics they recently learned in school. In their physics class, they have been studying centripetal force (and all of the factors that influence it – velocity, radius, mass) and centrifuges, so we set up three different stations that targeted different aspects of that lesson. In the first station, Nathan and Jeff talked a little about the research we do at LLSE and why we need centrifuges in handling our cells. In the second station, Andrew and Tika demonstrated how we use centrifuges to mix and de-gas polymer solutions that serve as the base/scaffold for our tissue constructs. In the third, Davi and I showed how centrifuges separate solutions and materials of different densities into different layers.
We did this by taking samples of various household items, including lemonade, orange juice, salad dressing, hot sauce, and soda, and spinning them down in a few of our smaller centrifuges. Each group of students hypothesized what would happen with these drinks/sauces and what type of layers would result from the spinning. While these tubes were centrifuging at over 13,000 rotations per minute (over 200 rotations per second!), Davi and I talked a little about other applications of centrifuges in real life, like washing machines, carnival rides, and astronaut/pilot training facilities. I hope these examples gave the students a better idea of the importance this type of machine has in fields outside of biomedical research. I’m looking forward to meeting a new group of students from this school next year!