TSRIs Spring Programs Bridge Gap Between Modern Lab
and High-School Classroom
By Jennifer OSullivan
For students and teachers alike the advent of spring is associated
with, well, a break. Spring Break, that capricious Puck, calls
on them to abandon all things serious and studious, to embrace
longer days and warmer temperatures before bearing down for
the last leg of the semester. The six or so weeks following
Spring Break are normally focused on the completion of projects
and papers, units, and, ultimately, the school year.
But for 12 teachers and 21 students from 16 San Diego secondary
schools, this spring promises fresh challenges and new beginnings.
For the past 12 years, The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI)
has used its intellectual and material resources to promote
and improve science literacy, enhance science teachers
professional development, and inspire students to pursue careers
in the life sciences. In recognition of the shift towards
a multiracial, multiethnic society both locally and
nationallyTSRI encourages students and teachers from
gender and ethnic groups traditionally underrepresented in
the sciences to attend its programs. Support is provided by
the San Diego Workforce Partnership, the Joseph Drown Foundation,
the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, the French Fund (administered
by Wells Fargo Bank), and the Carl E. Wynn Foundation.
Twenty-One Teenagers Have Chemistry
The high school students attending TSRIs Spring Enrichment
tutorials dont merely arrive on campus every Wednesday
at 3 PM. Instead, its as if they spring, en masse, with
packed schedules, heavy backpacks, and the occasional instrument
case in tow, from the shuttle buses that transport them from
their respective schools each week. Selected from a large
pool of applicants by Robin Goldsmith, vice president of communications
and director of science education programs, and representatives
from the Neighborhood House Association (which administers
funds from the San Diego Workforce Partnership), these high
school juniors and seniors are participating in an eight-week
course on aspects of modern molecular biology and chemistry.
Taught by TSRI doctoral students, tutorials cover a variety
of topics, with creative titles such as Genetics and
Genomics: As Simple as A-T-G-C and "Dance of the Macromolecules."
Graduate students also organize demonstrations and hands-on
activities for the high school participants.
For the grad students, the program provides teaching experience
they wouldnt get otherwise. The chance to develop skills
explaining science to public groups with varying experience
and knowledge is an added benefit. Primarily, though, they
want to get the students excited about science.
"We try to make biomedical research accessible to them,"
says graduate student Megan Trevathan, who coordinates the
tutorials, "to give them a window into a world they might
not have access to otherwise."
As coordinator of TSRIs educational outreach programs,
Ive gotten to know the high school students during the
past three weeks. Their exuberance, ambition, and interest
in the sciences impress me. And their ability to juggle school
and myriad extracurricular activities with the quintessential
teenage "no big deal" attitude.
Jessica Gomez, for example, is a junior at Chula Vista High
School and a member of the concert/marching band, which meets
daily during sixth and seventh period. "Since I have the same
teacher both periods," she explains, "I worked out an agreement
where she lets me miss seventh period and leave at 2:15 PM
on Wednesdays to meet the shuttle to Scripps." Whats
more, Jessica takes a class through Southwestern College on
Wednesday nights and so arranged for her mother to swing by
TSRI after work and to take her straight there. Like most
ambitious teenagers with the energy to match, leaving something
out just doesnt enter in.
Once the school year ends, each of the 21 high schoolers
will have a chance to channel his or her energy into more
specific areas of research, working as a student intern in
a TSRI lab for the summer.
Saviz Sepah, the top-ranked student of his junior class
at Scripps Ranch High School, tells me he hopes to find a
challenging internship position. "Nothing too routine," he
I ask the students as a group what area they hope to be
working in during the summer.
"Biotechnology!!!" the chorus booms.
1 | 2 |
High-school students Tracie Nguyen, Erica Delgado, and Saviz
Sepah (left to right) prepare a mock enzyme-linked immunosorbent