Public Engagement grant awardees bring science to diverse groups 

Science Clubs International (Clubes de Ciencia), one of seven science outreach programs to be supported by ASCB's Public Engagement grants.
Science Clubs International (Clubes de Ciencia), one of seven science outreach programs to be supported by ASCB's Public Engagement grants.

Outreach programs to foster an appreciation for science are often part of afterschool programs or found at large public gatherings. But several of the seven winners of the American Society for Cell Biology’s 2020 Public Engagement Grant Awards have created programs that share the wonder of science with vulnerable populations, such as people experiencing homelessness, the incarcerated, or refugees.

ASCB Public Engagement Grants, supported by Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, give grantees up to $35,000 to bring their bold ideas to life (or sometimes to bring an existing one to the next level). Science Sandbox is dedicated to engaging everyone with the process of science. Funds pay for materials, supplies, marketing, and salaries for projects slated to begin the second half of 2020. However, because of COVID-19, each project was either designed to be virtual or to have a virtual component, in case they cannot be done face-to-face.

“The review committee was really pleased with the quality of these public engagement proposals,” said ASCB CEO Erika Shugart. “ASCB is thrilled to be able to continue this program for a second round through the generous support of Science Sandbox.”

The 2020 ASCB Public Engagement Grant Awardees include:

Savannah Cook is a Project Coordinator for Summer High School and Pathways Internships at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle WA. Cook leads the Kinase Kids Science Club, which engages children experiencing homelessness with science education activities at Mary’s Place shelters and lab-based experiences at the Fred Hutch.

Brooke Danielsson, a doctoral student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University, has a project called Engineering Practices in Color (EPIC), an after-school STEM outreach for 7th- and 8th-grade dyslexic students using a curriculum that explores STEM using sensory-based activities and engineering design process.

Rafael Garcia-Mata, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toledo, will be expanding a project involving cyber-enabled instrumentation. He will work with middle and high school students and homeschoolers in Ohio and Michigan to remotely control an electron confocal microscope at the University of Toledo to study science.

Rogelio Hernandez-Lopez is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at the University of California, San Francisco. His project is Science Clubs International (Clubes de Ciencia). During the 2020/2021 school year, Science Clubs will offer hands-on STEM workshops taught by grad students and postdocs in Spanish and Portuguese for high schoolers and undergrads in Latin America.

Janet Iwasa is an assistant professor in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Utah. Her project is Finding a Refuge in Visualization. The project partners with an after school program for minority/refugee students to teach, create, and showcase scientific visualizations.

Beverly Naigles is a doctoral student in biology at the University of California, San Diego. Her project involves graduate students teaching science to adults incarcerated in San Diego County jails, to increase science literacy and humanize science as well as to develop cultural competency of future STEM leaders.

Anusha Naganathan is a Research Associate in the Department of Biology at the University of Rochester, as well as an Instructor for the Rochester Education Justice Initiative. Her project is the University of Rochester Science Stories, which will bring the experience of scientific experimentation to students at Groveland Correctional Facility in western New York.

About the Author:


Mary Spiro is ASCB's Science Writer and Social Media Manager.