Outreach Grants Will Promote Basic Science from Galway to San Quentin Prison

young students

Susan Walsh shows students in the Upward Bound program how to analyze their DNA. Photo by Scott Cook

Inmate-college students at San Quentin Prison will soon have microscopes for their biology lab through an ASCB Outreach Grant, offered by the Committee for Postdocs and Students (COMPASS) outreach subcommittee. ASCB members Ryan McGorty and Adam Williamson, both postdocs at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), asked for the outreach grant to help their volunteer efforts as instructors for a introductory biology course for prisoners. The course is part of the Prison University Project that gives inmates the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree through a program shown to reduce prison violence and discourage recidivism.

“I think the ASCB is doing a great service by offering the outreach grants. It is a great way to show non-scientists with different levels of science education what scientists do,” said Bruno da Rocha-Azevedo, chair of the COMPASS outreach subcommittee. “When the population knows more about science we hope they will become advocates for basic science research. Furthermore, all the outreach efforts targeting children will inspire future cell biologists,” he added.

Through another ASCB Outreach Grant, Susan Walsh, assistant professor at Rollins College, was able to bring 10 high school students to her lab for a week after a five-week course in anatomy and physiology. The course was part of the Upward Bound program, which provides college preparation to high school students from low-income families or those who would be the first in their family to go to college. Walsh’s outreach program was written up in the Winter Park/Maitland Observer and in Central Florida Lifestyle magazine. Photos of her event can be found here.

This year COMPASS awarded 14 grants, ranging from $280 to $1,000 in two cycles, the first round was due April 15 and the second July 15. “The quality of the applications was very high,” said da Rocha-Azevedo. He continued, “Our funded projects will be able to reach a wide group of individuals in diverse communities, all over the United States and abroad.”

Other ASCB members who are 2014 Outreach Grant Recipients include:

  • Megan Walsh is a graduate student at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Her project, “SUNY Downstate Summer Program,” was a science camp for middle school students in an underserved community.
  • Yoo Jung Kim is an undergraduate at Dartmouth College. Her project, “International High School Essay Competition for High School Students” invites high school students around the world to submit an article about the effect of science on our society. Kim hopes that participants will gain an understanding of how scientific discoveries can have lasting impact on society.
  • Scott Wilkinson is a graduate student at Emory University. His project, “Science Day at Auburn Elementary School” will allow 100 students at a rural community elementary school with a high poverty rate to perform experiments and discover their passion for science.
  • Cheryl Stewart, postdoc at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and Keriayn Smith, postdoc at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, teamed up to offer “STEM Talent through Promotion of Science in Kingston, Jamaica.” Their project will provide a one-day science education workshop for 100 5th- to 8th-graders at schools underperforming in science in Kingston, Jamaica.
  • Jessica Martinez is a graduate student Florida State University. Her project, “Science Gallery Art Exhibition at Florida State University,” will be a display of photos by STEM researchers at Florida State that will be free and open to the public. Each photo will have a synopsis about the research that generated the image.
  • Yejin Eun is a postdoc at Harvard University. Her project, “Outreach Workshop on Bacterial Cells at Harvard University,” will teach high school students about the intracellular organization of bacterial cells using hands-on inquiry-based learning. It will be part of Harvard’s annual outreach program.
  • Charlotte Kelly is a graduate student at Brandeis University. Her project will be part of the “Science Club for Girls.” Kelly plans to host a weekly, 3-hour-long club at Brandeis for girls in K-5th grade from underrepresented communities, spanning 5 to 6 Saturday mornings. The girls will learn about STEM topics appropriate for their age group.
  • Sharon Kuss is a postdoc at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who will offer “SPEaCing about Basic Science with our Community.” Science Policy Education and Communication (SPEaC) will perform an experimental demonstration, explain the biology behind it, and show how basic science like this is important to healthcare for attendees at the Perot Museum of Science and Nature. Kuss will also show how citizens can make a difference by supporting basic science research funding.
  • Christina King-Smith is a professor at Saint Joseph’s University near Philadelphia, PA. Her project, “Bringing Cell Bio to High School,” will teach high school students about Tetrahymena thermophile phagocytosis. The students will use microscopy and aseptic technique, form hypotheses, then record, plot, analyze, and present data.
  • Amira Mahdi is a undergraduate student at National University of Galway. Her project, “Brain EXPLORERS,” will be a workshop as part of the Galway Science & Technology Festival that will teach participants the basics of brain biology, including neurological disease and the importance of cellular biology in these phenomena.
  • Abby Buchwalter is a postdoc at Salk Institute. Her project, “SciChats,” is a video-chat-based science outreach program that pairs a group of elementary school students with volunteer scientists for lunch-hour “chats” about what it’s like to be a scientist, what they work on, and why they love what they do.
  • Rabab Charafeddine is a graduate student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AESOM). Her project, “Cell Biology Day at AESOM,” is for 5th graders from a public elementary school in the Bronx. The students will go to AESOM for the day, hear a short presentation about eukaryotic cells, tour labs, witness live cell microscopy, then build model cells with jello and candy.

Students in the Upward Bound lab program and Susan Walsh (right). Photo by Scott Cook


About the Author:

Christina Szalinski is a science writer with a PhD in Cell Biology from the University of Pittsburgh.