San Francisco Bay Area YWIB Visits the Buck Institute for Research on Aging
On September 12, 2015, roughly 70 middle and high school girls from across the Bay Area attended YWIB-San Francisco Bay Area’s event at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California.
The Buck Institute is the nation’s first independent research facility focused solely on understanding the connection between aging and chronic disease, with a mission to increase the healthy years of life. Our day at “the Buck” kicked off with opening statements from YWIB followed by a brief history of the Buck Institute by Mary McEachron, who herself played a critical role in the establishment of the Buck Institute.
Following introductions, the girls were divided up by age group and rotated between 3 activities:
Two lab tours, where the girls had the chance to shadow female researchers at the bench, learning about the various model organisms, technologies and techniques employed by Buck scientists to do groundbreaking research on aging pathways.
A hands-on activity where the girls extracted their own DNA into a necklace pendant they could take home, all while learning about Tardigrades (“water bears”) and the role DNA plays in aging and chronic disease with Dr. Julie Mangada.
A career panel where the girls learned about the different career paths taken by four women at the Buck and participate in a Q&A session. Questions from the girls covered topics such as gender pay equality, mentorship, and what college majors to pursue.
The variety of activities elicited diverse reactions and insights from the girls. Some of the younger girls cited the lab visit as the highlight, remarking that the use of laboratory animals such as worms, flies, and mice for understanding disease and making drugs intrigued them. Everything they saw--including laboratory instruments, refrigerators, and how they were used--helped them understand how a research laboratory works.
Some testimonials from the girls included:
“My favorite part was the panel of scientists who told us about what they did before they came to the Buck Institute and what they researched there. It was very cool to know that you don’t always have to be on a planned path, that you can change around and if you find your passion later in life you can do that. The research they did, especially the stem cell research that was really cool about how they could make them back into embryonic cells and change their function.”
“My favorite part of the event was the panel because it was really interesting to hear about science from a female scientist’s point of view and they talked about topics that aren’t usually mentioned in regular events.”
“My favorite part of the event was when we got to extract our DNA because it was really cool to see it and it was hands on. They made it seem really fun.”
“I enjoyed the panel because it showed me all of the different places you can go with science.”
In addition to the stimulating activities and discussion, we had fun navigating the inner workings of the Buck’s gorgeous and modern facilities designed by internationally-acclaimed architect I.M. Pei. We wrapped up the day by reflecting on our exciting experience over pizza and ice cream before heading home.
Thanks to Jean Mariani and the Buck staff for organizing such an incredible event and volunteering their Saturday to host us.
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