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DNA in the garden

A fascinating exhibition, celebrating the discovery of the structure of DNA, will open to visitors at St Andrews Botanic Garden this weekend (3rd July 2004).

The event, ‘DNA in the Garden’ is hosted by scientists from the University of St Andrews’ School of Biology and is the result of teamwork between the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, London.

The interactive exhibition will be open each weekend throughout the summer and autumn, from July 3 – October 24 2004. It shows how the molecule that connects all living things on earth, from the tiniest microbe to the largest blue whale, is also responsible for the huge variety of plants found around the world today.

Dr Alyson Tobin, who is hosting the exhibition at St Andrews, said: “The exhibition is really fascinating and brings to light many issues around the crucial role that DNA plays in life, evolution and biodiversity. We are very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to bring this event to the town.”

Fifty years ago last year, scientists working in Cambridge and London, discovered that the structure of DNA is like a spiral staircase. They called it ‘The Double Helix’ and it proved to be one of the most important discoveries of the twentieth century. Maurice Wilkins, who together with Francis Crick and James Watson, won the Nobel Prize for this discovery, started his academic career at the University of St Andrews in the 1940s.

Visitors will be able to explore some of the latest scientific research including displays devoted to DNA research at St Andrews, which covers a host of subjects from Alzheimer’s to Zoology. On alternate Saturdays, starting 3rd July, there will be the chance to join workshops run by University scientists – during which visitors will be shown how to extract DNA from garden peas and bananas. Experimental plants will also be on show, helping to explain how flower shape and colour is affected by DNA.

Unique to the St Andrews exhibition is a talking plant cell, produced by Henry Rae and Murray Coutts, with voices supplied by University staff.

Dr Susan Gilchrist, who co- ordinates DNA in the Garden for the BBSRC, said: ‘The exhibition has a few surprises – such as the fact that turnips, cabbages, radishes, cauliflowers and mustard were all bred by man from a single plant ancestor!’

The exhibition is available for private bookings for schools and colleges on weekdays from August 16 – interested parties should contact Dr Tobin on 01334 463375 or email at6@st-andrews.ac.uk

Weblink: http://www.st-andrews- botanic.org/

Ends

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

JPEGS OF THE ‘TALKING PLANT CELL’ ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE PRESS OFFICE – CONTACT DETAILS BELOW.

Contacts

Dr Alyson Tobin, University of St Andrews’ School of Biology Tel: 01334 463375 or 463441, E- mail: at6@st-andrews.ac.uk

Dr Susan Gilchrist, BBSRC Tel: 01793 413368, E-mail: susan.gilchrist@bbsrc.ac.uk

Matt Goode, BBSRC Media Office Tel: 01793 413299, E-mail: matt.goode@bbsrc.ac.uk

Notes for Editors

· Entry to the St Andrews Botanic Garden is £2.00 for adults and £1 for children. Pre-booked school groups and Friends of the Botanic Garden can get free entry. Once inside the garden entry to the DNA in the Garden exhibition is free. More information is available at http://www.st-andrews- botanic.org · DNA in the Garden will be at the St Andrews Botanic Garden from July 3 – October 24 and will be open to the public on Saturdays and Sunday from 10.30am – 4pm. On alternate Saturdays there is the opportunity to meet scientists from the University of St Andrews and to try hands-on activities. · Further information on the exhibition content is available at http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/life/dna_gar den/index.html · The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £300 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st-andrews.ac.uk Ref: DNA garden 290604.doc View the latest University news at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk

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