It's easy to find PhUn in physiology!

Published November 23, 2016

An MSU student volunteer teaches local school children the procedure for DNA extraction from strawberries at the most recent PhUn Day.

Area school children have the opportunity each November to have PhUn while learning classroom material at Impression 5 (I5) Science Center in Lansing, Mich. This year, more than 900 visitors to I5 participated in MSU PhUn Day activities earlier this month.

MSU’s Department of Physiology has organized Physiology Understanding (PhUn) Day at Impression 5 for the past five years. This outreach event coincides with the American Physiological Society’s (APS) PhUn Week, a nationwide outreach program, promoting building connections between scientists and their local schools to increase student interest in, and knowledge of, physiology.

The organizers for this year’s MSU PhUn Day on Nov. 5 were Erica Wehrwein, assistant professor of physiology, and Valerie Vanryn, instructional technologist in the department.

“We enjoy bringing our excitement about the many functions of the human body to the community,” Wehrwein said. “Our outreach team loves to interact with kids and families while teaching about physiology. PhUn Day is our largest event and we also visit many local schools during the year. These events are very important to supplement the science curriculum in elementary schools and to build enthusiasm for science at a young age.”

Sixteen activities were designed for the event to teach a wide variety of physiological principles, including thermoregulation, lung function, DNA extraction and atherosclerosis. This year, 133 MSU undergraduate students, graduate students, staff and faculty members served as volunteers, and numerous staff members from I5 were involved with PhUn Day.

Support was provided by the MSU Departments of Physiology and Radiology and the APS. For the first time this year, a partnership with Christie Schichtel at the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement office, provided donated bus tokens for volunteers. A special thank you goes to Lee Cox, MSU Department of Physiology chair, and Denise Elwart, department business manager, for their support, as well as to the many physiology staff members who helped behind the scenes to make this event a success yet again.

The total numbers for national 2016 PhUn week have not yet been tallied, but last year, more than 16,000 K-12 students across the country participated in PhUn Week activities.

MSU’s PhUn Day 2017 will be held Nov. 4, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Impression 5 Science Center.