Julie Pollock on Chemists Who Cook

Professor mixes chemistry and cooking in video series debut

March 14, 2021


Chemistry professor Julie Pollock is no stranger to sharing her expertise outside the classroom. She’s often sought out by media for her ability to make science accessible to a general audience. Now she’s appearing in a new online video series, on a topic everyone can relate to — cooking. 

The National Academy of Sciences’ outreach program, LabX, recently launched the YouTube series, “Chemists in the Kitchen,” and chose Pollock, a biochemist, for the first episode.

“Chemists in the Kitchen” aims to teach STEM lessons through creative avenues. Pollock ultimately suggested the idea that would become the focus of the program’s first episode, engaging viewers through cookie recipes and scientific facts about the ingredients.

The first episode explores topics like how vanilla flavor is created by synthesizing ingredients in a lab, as well as the chemistry of baking soda and thickening agents.

“It aligned my love of science with my love of cooking and a desire to make science approachable,” Pollock said. “I know that this may not answer the big science questions, but it’s a reminder to people that science is all around them.”

The series will continue introducing new chemists and feature different themes. Pollock said the LabX team was inspired early in the pandemic to bring chemists together virtually — using cooking as a way to highlight that scientists are real people who do normal things while also sharing a bit of science along the way. 

At UR, Pollock’s lab performs cancer research using chemical biology techniques, biochemical methods, and organic synthesis to understand the link between cancer and inflammation.