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STEM Day for Girls at the CREATE-IGERT Lab


Program Coordinator, Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung, with the help of IGERT trainee Ben Lindenmuth and Program Engineer Dr. Larry Joh, led a hands-on activity and tour of the CREATE-IGERT laboratory for 20 elementary school girls, aged 10-11 years. The students received an up-close look at the process of genetic engineering plant cells for the purpose of using the cells as bioreactors to produce useful proteins. In Prof. Karen McDonald’s CREATE-IGERT laboratory, useful proteins produced in plant cell cultures might include enzymes for the production of biofuels or proteins used as vaccines or therapeutic drugs. On the tour, students witnessed vacuum infiltration of a whole tobacco plant, had a chance to smell the aromatic Agrobacterium cultures, witnessed the action of a peristaltic pump and participated in a hands-on activity to simulate the viscosity of plant cell cultures in a bioreactor.

Address Goals

This activity primarily addresses the need to cultivate a scientifically literate populace and workforce. Elementary and middle school students benefit from hands-on exploratory interactions with professional scientists. Real world experiences link science, math and related academic subjects to the students, daily lives and to big challenges that they hear about in the popular media. Making STEM subjects “relevant” has been shown to be a critical factor in student academic achievement and motivation to pursue higher education in related fields. Our bioprocessing tour and activity emphasized the critical role science and technology plays in developing new medicines (biomanufacturing therapeutics and vaccines) and sustaining the environment (producing enzymes for biofuels). We encouraged student participants to visualize themselves working as a scientist or engineer and tackling new challenges.