For the love of science

This past Saturday we had another soccer game, but before the game we went to the medical center for a Brain Discovery Fair. Many of my colleagues help organize this event for kids ages 4-12 every year but this is the first time I took Charlie and Izzy.

This is a grad student that I work with on a couple campus committees and he loves science and research - can't you just tell from his face when he is talking to these kids?

We waited patiently until he had time to talk to Charlie one-on-one. It was worth it. Charlie learned about the human brain and even got to touch one!

Charlie learned that his brain is the boss of his body and tells him what to do (but I am the boss outside his body, he clarified). Like when he wants a Sprite, it is his brain telling him he wants a Sprite. Smart kid.

This interactive baseball display was a favorite with Charlie. It was designed to teach the kids about ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease. The kids put on giant Yankees jerseys and took a swing at the ball on the tee. Then they put on arm weights and took another turn at bat. It was much harder to swing the bat with the arm weights - and how it might have felt for Lou Gehrig when his muscles got weak from ALS. A good lesson.

After the brain fair, we went upstairs to my lab and I got out some simple science equipment for them to play with - pipetters, weigh boats, funnels and conical tubes. They poured and transferred water back and forth, giving the bench tops a good cleaning in the process. It was fun. I should let them make a mess at work more often.

Having kids in the lab is always fun, no matter how old they are. Kids have a love and appreciation for science that is all too easy to lose as adults. I had a group of high school students in the lab last week for a tour and after watching Charlie and Izzy play, I think next time I should just let the high school students play with funnels and beakers and call it good. Whatever gets them excited about science, I say.

This particular AP Biology class began visiting the lab when one of the students, a high school junior at the time, started working for me. The student is now a college junior and still works with me and her former teacher brings a new class back to visit each year. The visits expose high school students to biomedical research careers, and remind us why we got into this work in the first place. It's a win-win.


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