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January 31, 2011

Enriching the Pipeline of Young Scientists with Science Outreach Day
By Bernice B. Rumala

The Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) hosted the second Science Outreach Day initiative on November 5th, 2010. Bernice B. Rumala, Community Engagement Specialist collaborated with Ted Scovell, Director of Science Outreach Office on this new initiative to: 1) Tailor each outreach according to the specific needs of the school; 2) Serve as an information pipeline; 3) Inform students of research opportunities at The Rockefeller University and other institutions; 4) Connect students with mentors and 5) Emphasize the importance of science and science literacy regardless of a student’s career trajectory.

The first Rockefeller University Science Outreach Day was conducted in May 2010, in alignment with a nation-wide program called National Lab Day, to connect high schools serving predominantly underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students with scientists and mentors. The May program served as a pipeline to new science careers: 4 of the 36 students who participated in the May program went on to participate in The Rockefeller University Summer Neuroscience Program. The success of the first program led to an expansion of the initiative and an ongoing series of Rockefeller University hosted Science Outreach Days.

On November 5th, 2010, a group of 45 students and their teacher, Mr. Tom Zavrel from the Urban Assembly School for Applied Mathematics and Science, Bronx, NY participated in the second Science Outreach Day. Dr. Barry Coller, Physician-in-Chief and Head of the Laboratory of Blood and Vascular Biology welcomed the students, shared a brief history of the University, and described his career path to translational science. Ms. Rumala shared mentoring advice with the students. Shai Shaham, Ph.D., Head of Laboratory of Developmental Genetics described his work on the genetics of earthworm C. elegans, and then students used human genetics biokits to test a genetic trait of their own. Mr. Scovell gave an engaging research demonstration on temperature to the students. Scientists and career training panel consisting of PhD, MD/PhD and postdoctoral trainees provided the students with insights on the multiple paths to a science career.   More than 20 volunteers from The Rockefeller University community participated as mentors, laboratory tour guides, and research presenters. One volunteer commented, “Judging from the excitement of my group, I think you…helped them to imagine a future in science”. A third Science Outreach Day is in the planning stages for early 2011.

Further information about Science Outreach Day can be found at the Science Outreach website.

Participants and volunteers celebrate Science Outreach Day