On July 12 th 2019, STEM Pathways, in collaboration with Epiic Solutions, hosted an interactive workshop for high school students on the societal impacts of STEM.
The half day workshop began with an extended ethics discussion emphasizing challenges concerning current research in human germline editing. The discussions started in small groups, each with one LCP undergraduate researcher to lead the conversations. Not only did the students provide well-articulated arguments, but they also showed genuine empathy and understanding towards other students, who expressed plausible counterarguments. Towards the end of the activity, students were given the chance to voice their final thoughts to the whole group. One student noted that she gained greater appreciation of the complexity of ethical questions in engineering. Another one suggested that the scientific community should be more careful in assessing the effects, physical and psychological, of research studies on members of society.
The ethics discussion was followed by a hands-on activity that introduced students to Microfluidics. After a brief demonstration of how fluids are controlled in a biology lab, students had the chance to go through specific experimental protocols, like that for Fluorescence Measurement, and design them on paper using cutouts of microfluidic chip components. During the process, students became familiar with important microfluidics tools, like mixers and valves, and learned how biologists can use them in the lab. The researchers helped students carry out some related mathematical calculations as well so they could get a feel of the precise formulations of scientific experiments.
Next, our Outreach Coordinator Sarah Nemsick gave a brief presentation illustrating a few interesting current research projects synthetic biologists are exploring. Soon after Sarah hosted a panel with Professor Muhammad Zaman, a BU Professor of Biomedical Engineering exploring the intersection between engineering and public health, and two of his researchers, Dinithi Samarasekera (our Technical Administrator) and Dr. Carly Ching. The panel ended with a Q and A session with the researchers who welcomed all questions from students. Students asked many interesting questions, including about the ethics of conducting research overseas and the challenges of making healthcare more accessible in low-income countries.
The workshop ended with a tour of wet labs and hardware labs at the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Technology, CILSE.