WIB-RTP Young Women In Bio holds Inaugural “Spring Into STEM” Event
On March 12, 2016, WIB-RTP’s Young Women In Bio group held its inaugural “Spring into STEM” event! This year’s theme was The Spirit of Innovation & Entrepreneurship. In our first event of this size, over 150 girls, representing the 8th through 12th grades enjoyed a visit to The Frontier, the headquarters of the RTP Foundation.
Volunteer speakers engaged the girls in a variety of current topics, all based on the ideas of innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and leadership. The girls were divided into groups of Middle and High School students, and each group had the opportunity to listen to and ask questions of a fantastic panel of speakers. The speakers and their presentations included:
- Dr. Juliana Blum, VP and Co-founder of Humacyte: “Embrace Crazy- Careers in Science and Innovation”
- Dr. Natalia Mitin, President of HealthSpan DX: “Finding Yourself in the Ever-Changing World”
- Dr. Catherine Feuillet, Head of Trait Research, Bayer Crop Science: “Exploring, Solving and Connecting: a Career in Ag Research”
- Kiyomi Carter, PMP, Director of Strategic Planning and Project Management for Medicago: “How I Became a Professional Cat Herder”
- Dr. Rashmi Mehta, Director of Clinical Pharmacology Modeling and Simulation at GlaxoSmithKline: “STEM to Medicine Development”
- Dr. Laura White, Director of Dengue Vaccine Research at Global Vaccines Inc.: "Innovations in the Fight Against Tropical Viruses"
- Alison London Brown, CEO for Aegis Women’s Health Technologies: Networking Moderator
Following these speaker sessions, the girls engaged in a variety of hands-on activities designed to stimulate and challenge them:
Strawberry DNA Extraction: The girls extracted DNA from strawberries using household items. To do this, sliced strawberries were mashed to release the DNA. Liquid dish soap, table salt, and water were then added to the mashed strawberry to further extract the DNA. Next, the material was filtered using a coffee filter placed inside a small plastic cup. Lastly, rubbing alcohol was added to precipitate out the DNA, which looked like cloudy white material.
An Indirect ELISA to Determine the Presence of the Zika Virus: The girls performed an indirect ELISA to determine the presence of the Zika virus: The girls were given a scenario where they had all recently visited Mexico together; and within weeks of returning, some of them experienced flu-like symptoms. To test whether they had been infected by the Zika virus, a mock enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was carried out. The plates were precoated with "Zika antibody" and each girl chose a "serum" sample that they pretended was theirs. They then carried out the ELISA, learning proper pipetting technique in the process. In the end, a color change indicated which serum samples contained Zika virus, corresponding to the girls that had been "infected" while in Mexico. This activity gave the girls the opportunity to carry out a very common biological assay and a potential real-life application.
Creation of a Homemade Lava Lamp: A group of girls also created homemade lava lamps with household items. Unlike the lava lamp that you buy at the store, this lamp does not require heat! Using plastic bottles, water, oil, and an antacid tablet the girls were able to make their own lava lamp. Oil, water, and food coloring were added to the bottles. Lastly, an antacid was added and the bubbling created a lava lamp-like effect. Because oil and water do not mix, and because water is denser than oil, it sinks to the bottom of the bottle along with the food coloring. The antacid created carbon monoxide bubbles and the colored water would then rise to the top.
Communication Exercises Using the Principles of Engineering Design: Communication exercises were practiced using the principles of Engineering Design. The girls were divided into teams that came up with an Engineering design using straws. Each group then had to explain the structure to their teams by using only verbal or written directions (no pictures!). This exercise stressed the importance of proper and thorough communication, enabling the girls to enhance their verbal & nonverbal communication and cooperation skills. An Interviewing Skills workshop was held in which the girls role-played various Do’s & Don’ts of interviewing: We heard from many girls that this presentation will be invaluable as they navigate through the process of college interviews in the years to come. The girls were able to ask insightful questions about what to expect in an interview and how best to prepare themselves for an interview in the future.
A product “pitch” exercise in which in the girls learned the basics behind the process of designing, manufacturing, and pitching a product to a group of investors: The group was divided into three equal groups and given a product description. The girls were asked to give a product pitch on their given description. Led by Natalia Mitin, Alison London Brown, and Sabra Stipe, the girls were given the opportunity to work together to come up with a pitch and then to present their pitch to the group.
After these hands-on activities, the girls were treated to a massive pizza lunch from Randy’s pizza. A big thanks to DoubleTree by Hilton for donating the delicious cookies for dessert!
During and after lunch, volunteers and our moderator, Alison Brown, encouraged the girls to network with one another by using both prescribed and spontaneous questions. Some of the questions included “Name your proudest accomplishment” and “If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?” This activity helped dispel some of the myths surrounding networking, and enabled the girls to interact with one another in a safe and supportive environment.
At the end of the event, WIB-RTP’s Young Women In Bio also offered for the first time their custom YWIB t-shirts! If you’re interested in ordering one of these shirts you can learn more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event was sponsored in part by Biogen, DoubleTree by Hilton, Kimberly Clark, and WIB. We are also incredibly grateful to Brett Brenton and The Frontier for the generous use of their space for our event.
Look for an upcoming report on our April 19, 2016, YWIB event "Unleashing the Power of Biotech at NCCU!"
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