sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

March 1997

Purdue Bug Bowl not for the faint-of-stomach

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of a family at the 1996 Bug Bowl is available. It's called Bug Bowl '96. For b-roll from the 1996 event, contact Grady Jones (765) 494-2079; e-mail,

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Although they don't show up on the Food Pyramid, insects as entrees will be a featured attraction at Purdue University's annual Bug Bowl, April 18-20. That's where the vendors rattle off a menu that includes chocolate chirpy chip cookies, mealworm chow mein and a trail mix called "caterpillar crunch."

A snack that once crawled may not sound enticing, but bug cravings draw more than 10,000 people to Bug Bowl every year. A three-day celebration of insects, Bug Bowl includes everything from a cricket spitting contest to an insect petting zoo. Other events include a Big Bug Bakeoff, a human caterpillar race, an insect petting zoo, insect crafts, a butterfly exhibit and, the crowd favorite, cockroach racing at "Roach Hill Downs." New this year will be a parade of Volkswagen Beetles decorated as bugs.

"The Bug Bowl is the biggest outreach event in the School of Agriculture. People come from all over the state. The news channels all cover the Bug Bowl, and we've even been on CNN," says Kathy Heinsohn, a graduate student in Purdue's entomology department. "People are very intrigued by insects, by the alien characteristics bugs have."

Her involvement with Bug Bowl began in the spring of 1992 when she helped plan the event. "Bug Bowl is a fun approach to insects with an educational aspect. It is also a great way for entomologists to interact with many different people," she says.

Each year she demonstrates ways to cook favorite foods with insects, teaching people about insects and nutrition. She also asks audience members to step up and participate in a blind taste test of spice cakes, one with meal worms and one without.

Started as a cockroach race in 1990 as a way to stir up campus interest in entomology, Bug Bowl went public by accident. Tom Turpin, professor of entomology and Bug Bowl founder, says he never intended for the public to find out about it.

During a 1990 interview about corn research with a radio reporter, Turpin was interrupted by his secretary who walked in with the Bug Bowl cockroaches. Turpin says, "The fellow went back to WASK and the word was out. Purdue was having a cockroach race." The following Saturday, 1,500 people showed up.

Response was so great that the following year the organizers made Bug Bowl a formal event with more activities, expanding it to three days.

"Even if you don't plan to become an entomologist, you're bound to have fun and to learn something," Turpin says. "We hope that everyone comes out of the Bug Bowl a little more knowledgeable about insects."

Bug Bowl is free and open to the public. This year it begins at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 18, with the Big Bug Bake-Off. The full slate of activities then takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 19, and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 20. The entomology department has dedicated a world wide web page to the event at with more information on events and times.

CONTACTS: Turpin; (765) 494- 4568; e-mail,
Heinsohn, (765) 494-8646; e-mail,

Can your paycheck go further without a raise?

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University professor suggests that employers should provide their workers with a little more financial support than just a salary.

Flora Williams, associate professor of family and consumer sciences, is researching the impact of financial stress on employee productivity. She suspects that financial counseling for workers might help companies improve profitability.

"It's crucial that productivity not fall off in our global economy," Williams explains. "Worker stress is known to lower productivity by way of absences, tardiness, lack of job concentration, accidents and lower output. It would be helpful for businesses to know how much of that stress in money-related, and if financial counseling for employees would be a cost-effective way of addressing it."

Williams' literature search has turned up one study suggesting that 10 percent of all employees in the workplace have financial difficulties that affect their productivity, and she says that may be a conservative figure. Another research report says personal financial problems could be affecting the performance of nearly one-third of America's corporate work force.

While many companies have embraced employee assistance programs as a way to help workers overcome substance abuse, domestic conflicts and mental health problems, they have not been as proactive in providing financial counseling.

"If the bottom line starts to be threatened, we know companies will move aggressively to solve the problem," Williams says. "Financial counseling for their employees is a step in the right direction."

CONTACT: Williams, (765) 494-8297; e-mail,

Innovative 'bio-bandage' protects and heals

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of the researcher with the new material is available. Ask for the photo called Peppas/Bioadhesive.

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Photo caption below

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue University researchers have developed a new type of material that sticks to the skin and can deliver controlled doses of drugs to wounds, speeding the healing process.

"Using a bioadhesive material to deliver drugs through the skin is not new, but this material is, and the way it is made is an innovation," says Nicholas Peppas, the Showalter Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue. "This material offers several advantages over current systems in terms of cost and convenience."

The material -- a flexible, rubbery gel called a hydrogel -- is about 80 percent water. The composition is very similar to human skin. The only other ingredient in the hydrogel is a polymer called polyvinyl alcohol. A polymer is a large molecule made up of smaller molecules linked together in a chain.

Medicine, such as a healing agent, can be added to the material during the manufacturing process. In a clinical setting, a doctor would apply a "patch" of the drug-containing material to a wound, covering it with a bandage.

"One of the advantages to delivering drugs with a bioadhesive patch on the skin is that the patient gets a slow, constant dose over a longer period of time, perhaps a few days," Peppas says. "In most situations this will heal the wound faster than applying medication that acts locally for only a short time. Also, you do not have the inconvenience and cost of adding more medication each time you change a dressing."

Peppas says the primary application of the Purdue bioadhesive is for delivering drugs to an external wound not associated with an operation, such as a knife gash or other nonsuperficial wound that would be treated by a doctor. Peppas is conducting animal tests with the material to determine its strength and effectiveness at drug delivery.

Peppas presented his findings last year at a meeting of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

CONTACT: Peppas, (317) 494-7944; e-mail,

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

Photo captions:
David Fisher and Liz Grauerholz of West Lafayette share daughter Lara's amazement at the size of a New Guinea stick insect at Purdue's sixth annual Bug Bowl in 1996. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Bug Bowl '96

Photo Caption
Purdue biomedical engineer Nicholas Peppas has developed a new type of material that adheres to the skin and can be used to deliver drugs to wounds in a slow, controlled manner, speeding up the healing process. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Peppas/Bioadhesive
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