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July 29, 2010

National Lab Day: Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science Hosts Science Outreach for Bronx High School
By Bernice B. Rumala and Ted Scovell

On May 7, 2010, the Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) hosted 36 students from the Renaissance High School of Musical Theater and Technology in the Bronx, as part of National Lab Day (NLD), a nation-wide effort to provide ongoing science outreach to the students of high need and under-resourced schools (http://www.nationallabday.org) and foster ongoing collaborations. Through a national matching website, schools indicate their unmet needs and are matched to scientists and institutions offering resources for enrichment. Led by Ms. Bernice B. Rumala, Community Engagement Specialist for the Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science in collaboration with Mr. Ted Scovell, Director of Science Outreach for the Rockefeller University, a program was developed to meet the needs articulated by Ms. Linda Ewool, chemistry teacher at Renaissance High School. Ms. Ewool indicated that most of her students are from minority backgrounds underrepresented in the sciences, and do not have access to extracurricular science opportunities, nor are they exposed to scientists, particularly racially, ethnically and gender diverse scientists. Working together, Ms. Rumala, Ms. Ewool and Mr. Scovell tailored a program for a day at Rockefeller University to meet the specific needs of the students.

The students’ half-day program began with lectures covering a range of topics including an introduction by Ms. Rumala on the roles mentors can play, a research presentation by Dr. Ray Schuch, Research Assistant Professor, and science demonstrations by Mr. Scovell. Next, a diverse panel of eight PhD and MD/PhD students each discussed his/her science career path and responded to students’ questions. One panel member, CCTS Medical Student Research Scholar, Nakesha King, explained how translational research creates a bridge between laboratory research and clinical research. Students took tours of the panelists’ labs, the Caspary museum and other sites of interest on campus. The day concluded with an informal mentoring session during which students had the opportunity to speak one-to-one with scientists, physicians, nurses, nutritionists, research volunteer recruiters and other members of the translational research community who attended the session.

The following week, Ms. Ewool, who has served as a teacher in the New York City Public School system for more than 20 years, wrote: “As I walked into the school building today, I met two of the students who were in attendance on Friday. The first thing that they said to me was that the trip was ‘awesome’ and they continued talking about it as we walked up the stairs. Thank you so much …… I have never encountered such an experience with my students in my teaching career!”

One student participant wrote: “I always felt as if I was different from other people, until I came to Rockefeller. At Rockefeller, I felt comfortable because I was surrounded by people with interests similar to me.” Based on a description of the Rockefeller University Summer Neuroscience Program presented by one of the panelists, Mr. Rudy Bellani, seven of the 36 student immediately applied to the program. The Rockefeller CCTS National Laboratory Day program is one of the CCTS Science Outreach programs for under-resourced schools serving predominantl underrepresented minority and/or disadvantaged populations. Science Outreach to raise science literacy, foster a diverse pipeline of trainees, and enhance public trust, is part of a portfolio of the activities of the Community Engagement key function of the CCTS (CTSA). For more information on Science Outreach, National Lab Day, and other Community Engagement initiatives, please contact, Bernice B. Rumala at brumala@rockefeller.edu and Ted Scovell at escovell@rockefeller.edu, or visit www.rockefeller.edu .

This event was sponsored by The Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science funded in part by the NIH Center for Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) (UL1RR024143) and The Rockefeller University Graduate School.