Virtual Girls Day: Icky Science

March 13, 2021

Girls Day, offered twice a year, celebrates women who are exploring, researching, and innovating in fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

During our next Girls Day, meet researchers who study things that may seem icky at first glance, but​ turn out to be fascinating and valuable to science and society. Discover the scientific importance of slimy secretions, insect larvae, and even poop! All are welcome as we journey from "Eww!" to “Eureka!”

On March 13th, follow this Zoom link to access the webinar. You are welcome to join, leave, and/or return to the webinar whenever you like.

Saturday, March 13, 2021
10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Be among the first 100 to Pre-register on Eventbrite and receive a package of goodies from the museum.



10:00 am–10:30 am
Presentation and Q&A: “What You Didn’t Know About Poop Might Save the World: Using What We Flush to Track a Pandemic” by Katya Moniz and Amy Xiao, The Alm Lab, MIT Department of Biological Engineering

10:30 am–11:30 am
Activity: “What We Flush and Why It Matters” with Amy Xiao, The Alm Lab, MIT Department of Biological Engineering
Materials: 3 clear containers with tight lids, several drinking glasses, a spoon, water, toilet paper, paper towel, tissues such as Kleenex, “Flushable” wipe, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup juice any flavor, measuring cup, tape, marker.
Optional: Red cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, or grape juice, strainer.

11:30 am–12:00 pm
Presentation and Q&A: “Sticky, Slimy, Gross, and Great: Why We Need Mucus to Survive” by Michaela Gold, Ribbeck Lab, MIT Department of Biological Engineering

12:00 pm–1:00 pm
Activity: “Model Mucus Experiments” with Michaela Gold, Ribbeck Lab, MIT Department of Biological Engineering
Materials: 2 plastic containers, a spoon, corn starch, water, school or craft glue such as Elmer’s (clear or white washable glues work best), food coloring, saline solution (regular or “Sensitive Eyes” versions are both fine), baking soda.
Optional: Glitter, confetti, small beads.

1:00 pm–1:30 pm
Presentation and Q&A: “Worms to Wolverine: Regenerating Bodies” by Amelie Raz, Whitehead Institute and MIT Department of Biology

1:30 pm–2:30 pm
Activity: “BUGS! Become a Backyard Entomologist” with Crystal Maier, Museum of Comparative Zoology, University
Materials: Construction paper, plain paper, pencil, scissors, tape or glue.
Optional: Colored markers, stickers, glitter, or other decorations, magnifying glass if available.

2:30 pm–3:00 pm
Presentation and Q&A: “Poop Transplants Save Lives: The Mighty Microbes in Our Guts” by Imani Decaille, OpenBiome


Meet the Guest Researchers:

Dr. Katya Moniz
Research Scientist in the Alm Lab, MIT Department of Biological Engineering
I am interested in studying disease, diet, and other health factors by measuring human gut bacteria in wastewater. The trillions of bacteria living in our intestines—collectively called the gut microbiome—affect not only the digestive system, but many other systems throughout the body, including the brain! Wastewater provides valuable data to track human health on a population scale.

Amy Xiao
PhD student in Biological Engineering at MIT; works in the Alm Lab
I am working with a team to invent a device that detects pathogens (disease-causing bacteria or viruses) by analyzing traces of those pathogens’ genetic material in wastewater. I’m excited to combine mechanical, electrical, and biological engineering in a way that could really help the world by quickly and cheaply tracking disease outbreaks!

Michaela Gold
PhD student in Microbiology at MIT; works in the Ribbeck Lab
I study the interactions of mucus and microbes. I am especially interested in how mucus reduces the virulence (ability to cause damage and symptoms) of pathogens (disease-causing viruses and bacteria). I am also very active in the MIT Microbiome Club. I love organizing fun outreach events that help the public learn all about the fascinating microbes living in and on our bodies.

Amelie Raz
Postdoctoral researcher at the Whitehead Institute
I study germline cells (eggs, sperm, and cells that make eggs and sperm). They’re amazing because, unlike most cells, they can divide and multiply an unlimited number of times. They are effectively immortal, and I want to figure out why! Working in a research lab is great. I get to cut up worms that regenerate, play with fruit flies, watch living cells in action under the microscope, and contribute to important discoveries that benefit human health!

Crystal Maier
Curatorial Associate in Entomology at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology
I help manage Harvard’s collection of over 7.5 million insect specimens, including those on display in Harvard Museum of Natural History. I work with researchers around the world who request loans of our insects. Being an entomologist has given me the chance to travel to amazing places to study insects and their environments. I even identified and named some new species of beetles!

Imani Decaille
Clinical Outreach Associate at OpenBiome
I provide guidance to healthcare providers for treating certain infections with fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), a technique less delicately known as “poop transplants.” Instead of killing off gut bacteria the way antibiotics do, FMT adds billions of healthy bacteria to the gut, which hinder the growth of certain disease-causing bacteria. It may sound gross, but it works!


MIT Museum aims to make its online programs accessible to as many individuals as possible. Live closed captioning services (CART) will be provided when requested at least two weeks in advance of a program. Please email to request CART services or suggest other accommodations that would help you fully participate in this program.