BEAST (Biology Enthusiasts Association for the Students of Tulane), the ASBMB Undergraduate Affiliate organization of Tulane, had the opportunity of hosting two outreach events this semester for the first time as an organization. As part of the BEAST executive board, I enjoyed the preparation and am proud of the outcomes of both of the events.
The first event involved BEAST members and other Tulane students helping local Biology IB students at Riverdale High School with their molecular biology lab experiments. Due to lack of supplies and equipment at Riverdale, Tulane BEAST offered the use of Tulane biology labs to the IB students to allow them to perform the three major molecular biology lab experiments vital to IB course completion: Restriction Digest, PCR, and Transformation. The Riverdale students had a terrific time learning how to use a pipette, developing a gel electrophoresis, and transforming the pGLO. Most importantly, they loved interacting with college students. In addition to BEAST members taking part, we also recruited about 40 additional undergraduate volunteers from the Tulane School of Science and Engineering. Everyone, high school students, teachers, and college volunteers, left the event satisfied and excited. The most successful moment of this event for me was when a high school student ended the day by saying, “I know what I’m going to be when I grow up; I’m going to be a scientist just like them!”
The second event was CSI: Biology, complete with murder, blood samples, fingerprints, and suspects. In 2013, we had the honor of receiving the Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement in Science Grant from the ASBMB, which provided funding for this full-day event engaging high school students with hands-on Molecular Biology and Biochemistry with forensics. To complete the day, the high school students were required to solve a fictional murder mystery by experimentation. We prepared blood testing, footprint analysis, spot testing, DNA testing, fingerprint analysis, fiber and hair analysis, and other additional forensics experimentation. This program not only enhanced the students’ scientific knowledge, but also applied concepts from the popular television show, CSI, in a real lab scenario. Our goal for this outreach program was to enrich the scientific and lab knowledge of participants, encouraging them to seek science as a possible career choice. Both the high school students and the volunteers had a memorable time comparing the results of their final analyses, listening to the college students share their interests in science, and working in a real lab setting.
As students of New Orleans, part of our academic goal is to reach out to the local community. With these two outreach programs, we hope to have instilled scientific curiosity within some of these hardworking high school students. It is also our hope to make these annual events in order to promote and foster interest in science in the greater New Orleans community.