The setting is a little strange -- even sketchy. The space is definitely gritty, with lab equipment haphazardly piled on old couches and coffeemakers gathering dust in the corner. We're here to learn how to extract DNA from fruit and make cocktails out of the results.
Our hosts, Grace Cummings and Elliot Roth, are enthusiastic. Cummings is the founder of Indie Lab RVA, a mishmash of college science students who got together because they desperately needed lab space. It's a tough commodity to come by, but a necessary one for continuing graduate work. This type of event will help pay for a new space for more research. For now, Indie Lab operates out of HackRVA Labs.
A quick rundown -- non-alcoholic -- shows the DNA extraction technique. Fruit, of your choice (we choose blueberries, not knowing until the end that you extract the least DNA from them) is mixed with a pinch of salt and water. After a good mashing, the mixture is strained. Dish detergent and rubbing alcohol are added. It sits while DNA strands float toward the surface.
Enter the cocktail portion. Swap detergent and rubbing alcohol with pineapple juice and Barcardi 151, and throw it all into blender because it's quicker. Voila! A DNAquiri, if you will (and people have called it that -- this very experiment won the San Francisco Science 2011 Hack Day). Sip your drink while you watch DNA strands rise and form a white cloud. Education and drinking, for the ultimate win.
Cummings and Roth are also in the process of launching an IndieGoGo campaign to help fund the new space. Some of the rewards may be more DNA cocktail tutorials and molecular gastronomy dinners.
Now they're trying to find local chefs who might be up for the challenge. "I've always been interested in Alinea [in Chicago], and what they do with science and food. We could do some fun stuff here in Richmond," Roth says.
For more information on what's next, follow this link.