“Chillin” with science

There’s nothing like putting on a lab coat. Well, at least to a scientist…lol. It always makes me feel like I am going to go into the lab and have a big scientific breakthrough. However, it was good to have a reason to suit back up on Martin Luther King Day day to show students that science can be fun.

Every year on MLK day, there is a conference at the Wexler Grant elementary school in New Haven, CT. Throughout the day, there are various workshops for all ages to educate and inspire. This year, the Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society thought it would be a great idea to go into the community to show middle students that science can be fun and worthwhile to pursue as a career. 

The society itself was founded to honor Edward Bouchet, who was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in the United states. And he did so at Yale University. Since 2005, the honor society has strived to bring together a community of Ph.D. educated scholars, ranging from the humanities to the sciences, to make a difference in the diversity climate of higher ed institutions.

Diversity is acutely needed in the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) areas. There is a dearth of women and underrepresented minorities and it is important to try to increase their numbers. Many times children shy way from STEM areas based on a bad experience in a science class. In addition, students are missing role models that they can identify with.  So it was really cool to serve as a role model for the day and talk to the middle school students about their interests and share with them our love for science.

We titled our workshop, “Chillin with Science” because we did several experiments with dry ice. The children really enjoyed seeing a balloon fill up with CO2 as will as the fog that CO2 can produce in added to water. (In the picture below, you can see how the balloon is slowly filling up with the CO2 gas that is trapped in the empty water bottle.)

We also talked with the students about how we became interested in the sciences. A summary of what I shared with them is here:

” All throughout high school, I had planned on becoming a history major upon entering college. However, that all changed during my first semester of my senior year of high school when I took AP Biology  and fell in love with the subject. My teacher, Ms. Fisher, made science fun and was very supportive. Because of her, I decided to pursue Biology in college and (at the time) wanting to become a physician. However, through internships I discovered that medicine wasn’t for me and realized that Microbiology was my passion. For that point onward, I pursued a Ph.D. in Microbiology at Yale and then an Emerging Infectious Diseases Postdoctoral Fellowship in North Carolina.”

We all shared our stories and stressed the importance of being focused on pursuing your dream and not letting anyone discourage them. Overall, we had great turnouts at both of our workshops and look forward to doing more with science in the community moving forward.

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