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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: YWIB Attends Biotechnology Career Leadership Event at Amgen, September 29, 2016

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Wednesday, June 19, 2019

On September 29, 2016, Amgen hosted 19 middle school girls from the Bay Area. Women In Bio members Karla Lindquist and Leah Makley, along with members of the Amgen Women’s Interactive Network, organized the event. The girls learned through first-hand accounts from Amgen volunteers that making medicines to fight disease can be rewarding and fun, and that it requires collaboration between scientists with diverse skills and backgrounds.

The event started with a brief introduction by an Amgen volunteer. She explained that Biotechnology is about “learning how cells and other living organisms work so they can be used to improve the human condition.” She also explained the importance of Amgen’s mission: to make medicines that fight disease. This was a very motivational and interactive introduction where the girls were encouraged to ask and answer questions. The main take-home messages for the girls were to be curious, study hard, be persistent, and exchange ideas freely.

After the opening introduction, other Amgen volunteers introduced themselves, briefly describing what they do and what their favorite subject was in middle school. After their introductions, three volunteers sat on a panel for an in-depth Q&A session. During this session, the girls asked many questions that reflected their interest in learning more about what the Amgen scientists do on a day-to-day basis.

Following the Q&A session, Amgen provided a pizza dinner during which the girls mingled with each other and the volunteers.

Following the dinner and a short break, the girls’ Amgen visit concluded with an activity session during which the girls broke into teams to create “spaghetti towers” - a hands-on activity emphasizing team problem solving: Each team of three or four girls received 18 dry spaghetti strands, one cloth string, some masking tape, and one marshmallow.

The teams were then challenged to use these materials to make the tallest freestanding structure possible, with the marshmallow on top. This exercise encouraged creative and strategic thinking, advance planning, and teamwork.

The girls loved this activity, and it served to reinforce what they learned earlier from Amgen scientists during the introduction and Q&A sessions.

The girls’ Amgen visit ended with a wrap-up session during which each team explained what worked and did not work for their spaghetti tower project. Overall, this event was instructional and engaging for all!

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: YWIB Visits 23andMe, May 10, 2016

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Wednesday, June 19, 2019

On May 10, 2016, 23andMe hosted an event for 31 girls at their headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The girls were 5th to 12th graders from neighboring schools in Silicon Valley.

Following a brief YWIB introduction, the event started with a “get to know your table” exercise which provided for lively discussion between the girls who were seated in groups of about six. At this point, the Academic Program Coordinator at 23andMe gave a brief overview of DNA and shared the mission of 23andMe.

The girls then listened intently to a panel of nine 23andMe women who passionately spoke about their individual role in the company, their career path, and finally career advice. The panel consisted of women in a wide range of positions, including CEO, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer, Chief Medical Officer, VP Commercial Marketing, Director of Research, and Software Engineer, among others. During the panel, the girls learned that while each career path differed widely, following your passion with an eager-to-learn attitude will lead you to a job that you will enjoy.

Before heading on a tour of 23andMe, the girls enjoyed pizza, fresh fruit and salads, and cupcakes. For the tour, groups of about six girls were led by an employee through the new office space. The girls had the opportunity to see other employees at work in different departments and even enjoy the rooftop deck. During the tour, the girls also had the chance to ask even more questions about what it is like to work at 23andMe. They even learned that everyone, including the CEO, has the same work space in which to work.

The event concluded with a strawberry DNA extraction exercise. Using dish soap, salt, coffee filters, and rubbing alcohol the girls embarked on the messy task of extracting DNA from strawberries. They individually followed a step-by-step lab protocol with employees standing by to assist and answer questions. The girls also received 23andMe notebooks and other goodies to bring home

Overall, the girls were highly engaged and seemed excited about science. When one girl was asked if the event was as good as she imagined it would be, she responded, “It was so much better!” Parents raved about the unique experience their daughters were able to enjoy.

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: YWIB Tours Stanford Biodesign, April 6, 2016

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Wednesday, June 19, 2019

On April 6, 2016, fifteen middle and high school girls from the Bay Area, including girls from the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club, attended WIB-San Francisco Bay Area’s Young Women In Bio event at Stanford Biodesign in Palo Alto, California.

The Stanford Biodesign Fellowship Program charges its fellows to form connections between innovation and healthcare with the goal of developing practical, cost effective solutions to address today’s medical needs. The girls were greeted by fellows at their Biodesign offices, followed by an introduction to the Biodesign program by Elisabeth Wynne and brief descriptions from fellows of their ongoing projects: William Kethman described in depth the principles and development of a device intended for early detection of asthma in children. This device is being clinically tested, and Dr. Kethman showed the girls its prototype. The students expressed their interest and curiosity by asking many questions: What percentage of ideas become products? How long does it take to make a product? Do the physicians and engineers come from prestigious schools? Why can’t this device work in adults?

Following pizza dinner, the girls participated in hands-on activities at the hospital and surgical training lab. The girls were split into groups - one group learned and practiced tying surgical knots, while the other group gained hands-on experience with laparoscopic surgical tools as well as the Da Vinci surgical robot. By using this equipment, the girls experienced training doctors undergo to become better surgeons. Additionally, the girls got to interact informally with surgeon trainees who passed by.

At the event’s close we walked back through the lovely Stanford campus to the Biodesign offices where pictures were taken and parents were waiting. The students and the parents expressed their gratitude for such exciting learning opportunity.

Thanks to Elisabeth Wynne and William Kethman for being excellent hosts and helping to organize a dynamic and engaging event for the girls.

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WIB-San Francisco Bay Area: YWIB Visits the Joint BioEnergy Institute, March 8, 2016

Posted By Breezy Lachance, Wednesday, June 19, 2019

On March 8 2016, the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) hosted 15 middle school girls from across the Bay Area for an event organized by WIB member Dr. Erin Hill. At this event, the girls learned how to make biofuels from plant biomass.

Immediately following check-in, pizza was served. Dr. Hill then began the event with a presentation that provided the girls with motivation and background information to help them better enjoy their time at JBEI, and learn from their experience there. During her presentation Dr. Hill highlighted the work of inspirational female scientists throughout modern history, explained the importance of biofuels to our society, and gave an age-appropriate science introduction to the process by which biofuels are produced from plants.

Dr. Hill then introduced the girls to volunteer JBEI staff members, some of whom gave presentations on the science of biofuel production. Next, the girls were divided into groups and the JBEI volunteers led them through the JBEI laboratories, describing to the girls the purpose of each laboratory and what scientists do on a daily basis in these environments. During these tours the girls saw where the plants grow, where the cellular and biochemical reactions take place, and where state-of-the-art robots put things into production.

The tours concluded with the girls being brought back together to participate in a question and answer session with the JBEI volunteers and hands-on activities that demonstrated the principals of biofuel production.

During the question and answer session, the volunteers were asked how and why they became scientists. The girls were particularly interested in learning what educational goals they needed to achieve to become scientists. This was a reflection of their enthusiasm about what they had learned.

The hands-on activities following the Q&A session were especially important, as they had been carefully designed to help the girls incorporate what they learned during the presentations and tours.

One activity involved comparing plant to animal cells under a microscope by using the skin of an onion for the plant cells and the girls’ own cheek cells as the animal cells.

Another activity involved the girls making bracelets representing several basic sugars, with different colored beads representing different elements.

Possibly the most exciting activity involved mixing sugar, yeast, and water together in a plastic bag. This demonstrated how mixing these natural products produces gas which caused the bags to expand and even explode in some cases.

At the very least, the girls learned something about biofuels and had fun doing it. They also learned that they could become some of the most inspirational female scientists of the future, through the presentations and examples that Dr. Hill and the JBEI staff volunteers set for them during this event.

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