Most of us haven’t been in a science lab since high school, let alone given serious thought to how our DNA strands guide our diet. Yet Nicole Garneau, who has a Ph.D. in genetics from Colorado State University, believes that many of us are budding geneticists. In 2009, Garneau and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science started the Citizen Scientist program, which gives visitors and volunteers the opportunity to engage in real, ongoing research. Volunteers who are at least 16 years old complete an eight-week training and safety orientation; then they’re enlisted to conduct research at the museum by swabbing the cheeks of consenting visitors for DNA or conducting taste tests. Garneau uses the data to research how DNA affects taste, and thus a person’s food choices. “Research is meaningful to everyday life,” Garneau says, “and we’re going to prove it.”
Get Involved: Train to be a Citizen Scientist or volunteer as a research subject at the museum.