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Beckman Institute Open House scheduled for April 5-6

The Beckman Institute Open House is scheduled for Friday, April 5, and Saturday, April 6. Guests of all ages can do hands-on demos and activities, solve a science scavenger hunt, and meet the people behind world-changing scientific discoveries.
Published on Feb. 26, 2024

A student looks through a microscope at the Beckman Institute Open House 2023 while her peers look on.The Beckman Institute Open House offers interactive, interdisciplinary science for all ages. Credit: Jenna Kurtzweil, Beckman Institute Communications Office.Shrink to beetle-size and brave the microscopic world of bugs. Traverse a blocky Minecraft landscape to interact with digital DNA. Try on a pair of goggles or headphones to see and hear like someone else.

Sound interesting?

Guests of all ages are invited to see, hear, and experience science from perspectives like these at the Beckman Institute Open House, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, April 5, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 6. The event is free and open to the public. The Beckman Institute is located at 405 N. Mathews Ave., Urbana.

“Science is for everybody, and we want everybody to come up to Beckman and enjoy hands-on science. Our open house coincides with Engineering Open House, so there will be plenty of activities that are both educational and fun all across the campus,” said Beckman Institute Interim Director Cathy Murphy, a professor and the Larry R. Faulkner Endowed Chair in Chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

More than 30 interactive exhibits will highlight Beckman’s diverse research portfolio, which includes molecular engineering, imaging, and intelligence. Four zones in the Beckman Atrium will translate these topics into hands-on activities and demonstrations:

  • In the Molecules and Materials Zone, guests can extract DNA from strawberries; paint with milk, food coloring, and soap; and build a molecular rainbow.
  • The Imaging Zone highlights how researchers solve problems by looking at the world through a different lens: guests can illuminate invisible samples with light microscopy; learn how researchers see inside our hearts, eyes, and ears; and watch their own brain waves in action.
  • In the Health and Medicine Zone, guests can cheer on a cyber-octopus as it crawls through an obstacle course, use the Veggie Meter to measure nutrients in their skin, and brush up on their neuron knowledge with the experts themselves (a tankful of sea slugs).
  • Specially curated for the youngest scientists, the Kid-Friendly Zone features exhibits like “Spying for science,” “Rat v. human: the ultimate hearing test,” and, “Your brain is electrifying!” which involves making a ball levitate using only your brain’s electrical signals.

Guests interested in questing beyond the atrium can take lab tours in Beckman’s basement, visit the (dis)Ability Design Studio, and experience the third-floor exhibit, “Voltage voyage: an interactive electrochem odyssey,” which offers the opportunity to operate a brand-new electrochemistry robot.

As in previous years, Beckman’s Illinois MRI Exhibit and Arnold O. Beckman Exhibit will be open to guests looking to learn more about the institute and its history. Guests can also solve the science scavenger hunt and commemorate their experience with a photo in Beckman’s selfie station.

The open house shifted to a new annual format in 2024. Previously, the event occurred biennially.

“By hosting annually, we can continue growing relationships, providing training and experience in science communication for our researchers, engaging with the next generation of scientists, and encouraging new participation within the Beckman community,” said Lexie Kesler, the institute’s communications and outreach specialist who coordinates open house. “This is a great opportunity for us to open our doors and welcome our surrounding community. And this year, there are plenty of new things to see and do.”

Interested in attending the Beckman Institute Open House? Take these steps:

  1. Visit the Beckman Institute Open House web page to view a full list of exhibit titles and descriptions, request accommodations, and plan for parking.
  2. Download the Beckman app to view a map of the building, including directions to Beckman’s bathrooms and lactation room.

For teachers planning field trips: Register your Friday field trip in advance and be entered to win a slime party at your school with Beckman researchers!

Questions? Contact Lexie Kesler at

The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology is an interdisciplinary research institute on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. Founded in 1989 by philanthropist and inventor Arnold O. Beckman, the institute supports research across disciplines among University of Illinois faculty members to foster scientific advances that would not be possible elsewhere. Researchers at the Beckman Institute develop imaging tools, study the origins of intelligence, and harness molecules to create better drugs and materials; the institute is also home to the Illinois MRI Exhibit, which includes the first human MRI scanner invented by faculty alumnus Paul Lauterbur.