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CAGIS Clubhouse

Cheek Cell Extraction and Glowing Secrets (FREE KIT)

Image of glowing substances in vials

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Did you know that scientists can switch out some of the building blocks of our genetic material, with new ones that glow!? Scientists can also use chemical compounds that fluoresce, or glow under ultraviolet (UV) light, to help see inside the body, diagnose diseases, or study genetics! Explore this exciting frontier of biochemistry by observing fluorescence with a UV light that we send to you. Plus, get a look at your own DNA (really!) by extracting it from cheek cells.

Materials and Preparation

A free blacklight (UV light) will be sent out to CAGIS Virtual members who sign up for this session by September 30th at 11:59 PM. You must be a member to receive a kit. If you are not a member, sign up here.

You will also need:

  • 2 cups (e.g., drinking glasses)
  • 1 measuring cup
  • 1 tablespoon
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Rubbing alcohol (chilled — you can put it in the freezer before the session)
  • At least one of the following items (however, we recommend bringing as many of them as you have available, so we can explore their fluorescent properties):
    • Olive oil in a clear glass or clear container
    • Tonic water in a clear glass or clear container
    • Turmeric dissolved in water, in a clear glass or clear container
    • Vaseline
    • An egg
    • Spinach + acetone (e.g., nail polish remover) + a clear glass or clear container
    • Vitamin B2 dissolved in water, in a clear glass or clear container
  • Optional: a chopstick or pencil


If you did not register in time to receive a free UV light (blacklight) keychain, you can purchase one separately to do the fluorescence portion of the activity. The DNA extraction does not require a UV light (blacklight).


Mria Chowdhury is a bio-organic chemist who is working to chemically build and modify nucleic acids and make them glow. She is a PhD candidate at Western University.


Mria Chowdhury


This programming was developed by Natalia Mangos and Mria Chowdhury.

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