Coming Attractions

Eat the wheat, test the taste — it’s scientific

Recommended activities for the coming week

Column by Clarke Reader
Posted 12/19/18

There's a stereotype that scientific research belongs in cold, sterile laboratories to people with Ph.D.s and white lab coats. But at the Genetics Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & …

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Coming Attractions

Eat the wheat, test the taste — it’s scientific

Recommended activities for the coming week


There's a stereotype that scientific research belongs in cold, sterile laboratories to people with Ph.D.s and white lab coats. But at the Genetics Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Nicole Garneau, Ph.D., curator of health sciences at the museum, is working to make sure the community knows they have just as much claim as anyone.

“We want the public to know they own scientific inquiry too, not just professional researchers,” Garneau said. “We want to remove the privilege and elitism that comes with these fields and let the community get involved in important studies.”

Through Aug. 2, community members aged 8 and older can participate in a new Genes and Grains study, designed and conducted in partnership with community scientists, Colorado State University and the United States Department of Agriculture. The study aims to determine how variations of the TAS2R4 gene affect the taste of whole wheat.

“This is the sixth study we've participated in at the genetics lab. We accept applications from scientists all over the country on a ride range of topics,” Garneau explained. “We try to balance the setup so the scholarly part is not diminished, but participants can still have fun.”

This new study is part of a larger project funded by a Science Education Partnership Award rom the National Institutes of Health to conduct research in a way that empowers community participation. And since genetics is such a complicated field, exploring it through the lens of taste allows easier entry for the layperson.

“The community lab is on its way to better understanding why DNA affects the sense of taste and the role taste plays in what individuals choose to eat and their health,” Garneau said. “By participating, the community will be adding real, diverse data to the experiment.”

Each taster will sample a series of whole wheat wafers and describe what they detect. The community scientist will record the observations and take a DNA sample from the guest tasters via a cheek swab. Community scientists will then analyze the DNA samples using high-tech equipment in the Genetics of Taste Lab. The results will shed light on how DNA affects human perception of whole wheat, as sweeter or more bitter, according to information provided by the museum.

“Those who participate will be helping to create real knowledge,” Garneau said. “It is also a way to get people more comfortable with participating and being involved in science.”

The study is fully available in both English and Spanish, and people can participate by going to the Taste Lab in “Expedition Health” on the second level of the museum at 2001 Colorado Blvd. The experiment is available daily, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Enrollment is free with museum admission.

Experiments run approximately 30 minutes and are subject to the availability of the community scientists on a first-come, first-served basis. It is also possible to make an appointment by emailing For more information, visit

Go home this holiday to Lone Tree

Tap into a vein of pure Christmas cheer right before the holiday itself kicks into high gear by heading to Lone Tree.

In response to audience demand the Lone Tree Arts Center, 10075 Commons St., is hosting Home for the Holidays 2018 through Dec. 23. Performances are at 1:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

This production aims to delight everyone by including everything from dancers, singers, drummers, holiday songs, and of course, a special appearance by everyone's favorite Christmas elf. The storyline has even been updated for 2018.

Get your tickets at

Clarke's Concert of the Week — Conscious Alliance Holiday Party at Fillmore Auditorium

It is no secret that the holidays can be a very stressful time, with all the crowds and shopping, to say nothing of commitments with family and friends. Sometimes the best thing a person can do to stay sane is relieving some of that stress on the dance floor.

BoomBox, the electronic work of songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Zion Rock Godchaux, is offering audiences a chance to do just that while collecting toys for a good cause at the same time.

The Conscious Alliance Holiday Party will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21 at the Fillmore Auditorium, 1510 N. Clarkson St. in Denver.

The event is hosted by Conscious Alliance, a nonprofit focused on feeding the hungry through organized food drives at music and sporting events. For this special concert, instead of food the organization will be accepting new or unwrapped toys. Those who donate will receive a limited-edition poster.

In addition to BoomBox, the show will also feature a DJ set from Classixx, one of my favorite contemporary electronic groups, and Orchard Lounge, a duo that blends genres ranging from downtempo to space disco, with a healthy dose of hip-hop, soul and funk added to the mix.

Tickets can be purchased at, and find about more about Conscious Alliance at

Mark the shortest day with a long night of partying

The winter solstice used to be a time for celebrations and festivals of all kinds in the world's ancient cultures. Even the Christmas celebration coincides with these annual events.

Some still keep the tradition of marking the shortest day and longest night of the year alive with parties of various kinds. One such place is Denver's Mercury Café, 2199 California, which is hosting Dancing the Dark from 8 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Dec. 21.

The evening will feature Cerunno's Reverie, a local group that performs spirit-weaving tribal fusion dance music, Eva, Rafi'ah and Mercury Café belly dancers, and a solstice ritual facilitated by Erica Adams.

More information on this all ages event can be found at

Clarke Reader's column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at

Clarke Reader, Coming Attractions, Denver, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, DMNS, winter, solstice, Mercury Cafe, music, concerts, live music, Fillmore Auditorium, BoomBox, DJs, Classixx, Lone Tree, Lone Tree Arts Center, theater, Christmas, holidays, Genetics Taste Lab, science


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