UWM’s Science Bag gets defensive in April

UWM biologists Doug Steeber and Heather Owen explore the basics of immunity in the April Science Bag.

Everybody knows your immune system protects you from germs that can make you sick. But if it’s supposed to keep you healthy, why is your immune system also responsible for allergies?

The many mysteries of the body’s complicated defense tactics is the topic of the April Science Bag interactive lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), “Your Immune System: Up-Close and Personal.”

The presentation is held every Friday in April at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, April 15, at 2 p.m.

Using examples of bacteria and allergens (such as pollen), UWM biologists Doug Steeber and Heather Owen explore the basics of immunity. The audience will be encouraged to participate in a demonstration of how allergies are produced and how vaccines protect us from disease. But don’t worry – no needles are involved!

To get a closer look at the workings of the immune system, the scientists will use a high-powered scanning electron microscope that can magnify objects tens of thousands of times their actual size. During the demonstration, volunteers can go next door to the microscope facility to see the operation in person or help operate the microscope remotely from the classroom.

Also, audience members can take an interactive quiz, designed to teach some other surprising facts about immunity.

“Your immune system actually ignores more than 99 percent of the bacteria it encounters,” says Steeber. “What’s up with that?”

The Science Bag presentations are held in room 137 of the Physics Building, on the corner of Kenwood Boulevard and Cramer Street. The Science Bag is for the curious ages 8 and older, and is free.