Sucrose, Science, and Splendid Christmas Sweets

Warning: Reading this blog may induce a sugar-coma! Do you have a sweet tooth? If yes, the Future Science Leaders Christmas Open House would have been the perfect place for you!  I am involved in an amazing program called Future Science Leaders where I get to learn and hone practical and theoretical research skills.  This is my second year in the program and I have been working on a fermentation project since September with a group of 5 other students.  Since the year is coming to an end, we decided to host an open house for our family, friends and funders to show them some of the amazing work we have been doing.  We (research group and engineer group) all decided to bring in something to share and eat.  It turned out to be a dessert festival!

Many of us wanted to bring in something science-y, so it was really fun to see all of the science inspired treats.  We had the standard model of brownies, liquid nitrogen chocolate ice-cream, raisin buns like J. J. Thomson’s raisin bun atomic model, miracle berries that changed sour tastes to sweet, jello made in petri dishes and many other Christmas desserts like cake pops, cookies, red and green wraps and candy canes!  Thankfully, the night before our celebration, I was homeworkless so I made petri dish cookies and biologist/surgeon gingerbread men, inspired by the blog “Not So Humble Pie”. It was an amazing spread that any science lover or sugar lover would have died to be part of.


 But what really is sugar? Science never fails to help us out.  Sugar is a carbohydrate, one of the essential biological molecules in the human body.  And just to be clear, just because it’s essential, it does not mean adding maple syrup to every meal is good for our body! Carbohydrates are molecules composed of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen.  They are usually found in the approximate ratio 1:2:1 respectively.  Carbohydrates can be found in the form of small single sugars (a monosaccharide like glucose, fructose or galactose), two singles sugars linked together (disaccharides like milk sugar, lactose) or many sugars linked together (polysaccharides like starch, glycogen or cellulose).  Carbohydrates are energy sources for most organisms and in some cases act as structural components.

The sugar we commonly add to coffee or use in baking is sucrose.  Sucrose in a disaccharide and is made up of glucose and fructose and has the chemical formula, C12H22O11.  It is found naturally in plants and even more so in sugarcane.  Disaccharides form through the process of dehydration synthesis in which a hydrogen atom from one monosaccharide and a hydroxyl group from the other are removed so that a covalent bond links them.  In addition to a disaccharide, a water molecule is also formed.

Sucrose is probably one of the most well known chemicals out there because it is so abundant.  Even though sucrose provides us energy, too much of a good thing is never that good!  Our Christmas party was a lot of fun but next time, hopefully we can add in some starch-y vegetables, plenty of H2O, some lean proteins and vitamins to aid in coenzyme production!





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