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Dr. Kristy Shuda McGuire demonstrates a lab experiment

STEM Night at R.W. Brown Boys and Girls Club: Exploring Our Roots with DNA

Dr. Jason Diaz, The Wistar Institute education program director, moved around R.W. Brown Community Center classroom full of aquariums with turtles and fish, assorted plants, and books. Dr. Diaz’s excitement was obvious as he peppered the high school students with questions on what they knew about ancestry tests and DNA—the subject for tonight. 

Guided by Dr. Diaz, high school students conducted interactive science experiments revealing genetic ancestry and roused their scientific curiosity. Students practiced lab skills like pipetting, gel electrophoresis (“pushing” DNA through a gel with electricity), and learned to analyze gel results. Dr. Diaz explained DNA and how it’s passed on from parents to children, then plunged into the steps of their experiements.

This after school science class about Exploring Our Roots with DNA was a collaboration amongst a nonprofit coalition including Give and Go Athletics, Caring People Alliance, Lower North Philadelphia Community Development Corporation, and The Wistar Institute. Hosted by the R.W. Brown Boys and Girls Club, a space for children offering sports and arts programming, a pool, a small animal zoo, and career development activities.

The community science event for neighborhood students, the second in the series, aimed to build a foundation of STEM experiences, and bolster exposure to science-related careers and foster a lifelong interest in science. 

Science jobs in our life science region are expanding. Events like this expose students to STEM opportunities that can positively impact their lives, the region, and beyond. It encourages students to consider science as a possible career. To be fully immersed in biomedical research, they can participate in our Summer High School Program in Biomedical Research* meant to inspire them to identify as scientists.

Side bar:
For more than 20 years, Wistar was most known for its education, training and apprenticeships exposing nontraditional undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds to biomedical research training opportunities. These opportunities lead students to new careers, further degrees, growth, and mobility. Wistar’s approach to education and training is broad. In the last few years, while wrangling with a pandemic, Wistar’s Dr. Kristy Shuda McGuire, dean of Biomedical Studies, has turbo-charged Wistar’s education and training programs—accelerating and expanding them to more students – from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, America’s first Historically Black College and University, to more regional community colleges.

Wistar’s educational aspirations run the gamut ¬– training high school students, undergraduates, graduates, and postdoctoral fellows. Wistar also welcomes trainees going back to school as well as adult workers from nonscience fields. Check out this Inquirer story on our newest education and training program with the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative and collaborators. The program is geared to training workers for sought after, much needed life science laboratory jobs in the region.

* Applications for the Summer 2023 High School Program in Biomedical Research will be available this January.

STEM Night at R.W. Brown Boys and Girls Club