'A conversation that inspires': Princeton brings landmark discoveries in chemistry to high school students

April 20, 2022, 12:16 p.m.

When Assistant Professor of Chemistry Ralph Kleiner set out to tell the story of landmark discoveries in chemical biology, he kept one goal foremost in mind: make it compelling.

This month, he and his research group met that goal with a series of videos for high school students. Backed by the able narration of graduate student Emilia Argüello, the videos use primary literature to highlight some of chemistry’s historic achievements in nucleic acid science.


Ralph Kleiner (left) and his research team are creating a series of short videos for high school students. The videos, which feature graduate student Emilia Argüello (right), use primary literature to highlight historic achievements in DNA and RNA science.

The videos are available through the Department of Chemistry’s Vimeo channel and the Kleiner Lab website. The first two in the series are “The Transforming Principle” and “Discovering the Structure of DNA.”

Engaging and conversational as they are informative, these two videos also fulfill part of the terms of Kleiner’s 2019 CAREER Award. The National Science Foundation, which stewards the award, requires a strong commitment to outreach and education.

“When I wrote the outreach portion of the CAREER proposal, my goal was to introduce students to the scientific method through exposure to the primary literature,” said Kleiner. “Reading original scientific manuscripts is not only an essential part of research, but it can bring the material to life by infusing it with the personality, history and circumstances of the scientists who made the discoveries.”

The lab plans to produce up to 10 videos in the series.

Argüello, whose research focuses on investigating the interactions of proteins with modified RNA, was tasked with selecting, organizing and translating the information for the first two videos.

“I’m very adamant about being conversational in my talks, even if it’s an official talk,” said Argüello. “I have to feel that I’m engaging with the audience. Some people say, ‘I’m never going to understand chemistry; it’s too arcane.’ But no — we can unpack these concepts and have a conversation that inspires people.”

Read the full story on the Department of Chemistry website.