Science Day exposes high school students to science

by Daniel Kim | 4/10/16 7:09pm

Local middle and high school students isolated DNA from strawberries, explored brain cells and made clouds inside cups this past Saturday at the fourth annual Science Day. Approximately 120 local students and close to 80 graduate student volunteers attended the event.

Graduate students from various science departments volunteered at 18 stations across campus, exposing students to different scientific fields.

Biochemistrygraduate student and Science Day organizer Jessica DeSimone developed her passion for Science Day after volunteering in previous years. The event’s main goal was to get kids excited about science, and to show them what a research career entails.

“We introduce them to a higher level of science education they can pursue,” she said. “For older kids, this is a career development opportunity, where students can ask graduate students how to prepare for and what to expect as a scientist.”

Quantitative biomedical science student Lia Harrington Gr '19 volunteered at the “DNA You Can Eat” station, where students made DNA out of jelly.

“I think it’s really important that children discover their interest in science and make it accessible during their formative years,” she said. “I think Science Day is a great way to do that — I mean, who doesn’t like edible DNA?”

Meanwhile, at the microbial discovery box station, students learned how microorganisms are present in things like smelly socks and cheese.

Graduate student Shan Chen, a volunteer at the station, noted that while he does not expect Science Day to be a “huge experience” for the students, he hopes that the event can give them a “spark of interest.”

First-year molecular cellular biology student Chaya Patel, who volunteered at the strawberry DNA station, said that events like Science Day help tackle stereotypes that drive students away from science.

“Science is often not considered as cool as other professions like being a doctor or firefighter among children,” she said. “It was great to see one little girl jump up and shout about how cool the experiment was — science really is cool.”

To ecology, evolution, ecosystems and society graduate students Ashley Lang Gr '20 and Fiona Jevon Gr '20, Science Day was an opportunity to practice explaining concepts in a clear and engaging way.

“We need to be able to explain our research to all kinds of people, from kindergarteners to very old adults,” Lang said. “Honestly, it’s hard to make soil sound interesting.”

Jevon added that she was impressed by how many students were engaged and interested in what could be seen as a bland topic.

This year’s Science Day was the third one for Anda Brown, an eighth grader at Woodstock Middle School. She has always been interested in science, she said, and after watching the TV show “Bones,” she now dreams of being a forensics anthropologist.

“I could connect what I learned from Science Day to what I’m studying at school,” she said. “Every year, I can understand more and more.”

The event was hosted by Dartmouth’s Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, with funding from the Graduate Student Council.

Correction appended (April 11, 1016):

The original version of this article incorrectly identified graduate student and Science Day organizer Jessica DeSimone as a microbiology graduate student. She is in fact a biochemistry student.