Priya Chacko is a rising senior in the Chemical and Biomolecular Enigneering program at NYU-Poly. She is a participant in the Chem-Bio Technology Lab with Professor Jin Montclare. Working with the Center for K12 STEM Education, Montclare Lab personnel developed a high school course on Bioengineering Research and Practice.
As a high school student, I always wanted to learn more: more history, more English, more science. And while it was easy enough for me to pick up a history textbook or any number of literary classics, there was never enough science. Unfortunately, I was never exposed to the world of research either; all the learning I did was on my own or through my parents. It was a frustrating existence. For the last two summers, I have been fortunate enough to be able to give back to students like me through the Bioengineering Research and Practice program at NYU-Poly. This program combines a mixture of high-level lectures with engaging activities and hands on laboratory experience to demonstrate the future of bioengineering research to high school students.
In designing this program, we wanted to cover topics students could relate to—things that they hear and read about every day. We decided to choose three prevalent diseases: diabetes, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. By incorporating news stories and technologies that are currently being developed, we hope to reach the next generation of scientists and engineers. Although remaining relevant was an important step, we also wanted our program to be interactive by having the students conduct DNA restriction labs, act out the glucose-insulin pathway, and read about and discuss medical ethics.
For the first day of class this year, we went around the room and asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some of them said scientists, others said doctors, but a few of our students said they wanted to be lawyers and fashion designers. When asked why they chose to do this, they shrugged and said, “I don’t know.” I believe the critical issue with STEM education is that students feel scientific careers are only in research or academia. Barely any of our students even knew what engineering was, or the ways in which science, technology and math are applied through engineering disciplines. Through this program we hope to expose our students to as many STEM related fields as possible and raise awareness and interest for the next generation of scientists, doctors, and bioengineers.