Introducing the Role of Metals in Biology to High School Students

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Metals enable numerous physiological processes ranging from respiration to nitrogen fixation. However, the role of metals in biology and biocatalysis is not appreciated by the general public. This lack of knowledge around biological metals can lead to misinformation, especially regarding vaccines and health products. Here, we present a series of easy-to-implement experiments and demonstrations that can be incorporated in the high school curriculum to introduce students to the role of metals in biology. Our results from running these experiments/demonstrations in virtual (N = 6-10) and in-person (N = 22; N = 9-12) formats reveal that only 9-30% of high school students are aware of the presence of metals in humans. These statistics can be changed to 48-100% by incorporating proposed experiments and content in the curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3789-3796
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Chemical Education
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 8 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge financial support from NSF Award 2046527 and the Regents of the University of Minnesota to enable these experiments/demonstrations. We also thank Eureka! and Girls Inc. for hosting the summer programs where we conducted our studies. We thank Dr. Kris Gorman at UMN Center for Education Innovation for helping with the survey design. Finally, the efforts and help of all Bhagi-Damodaran group members are appreciated towards designing and conducting these experiments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society.


  • Bioinorganic Chemistry
  • Demonstrations
  • Enzymes
  • Hands-On Learning/Manipulatives
  • High School/Introductory Chemistry
  • Laboratory Instruction
  • Metals
  • Proteins/Peptides
  • Public Understanding/Outreach
  • Reactions
  • Transition Elements
  • Women in Chemistry


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