Outreach

Celebrating science and community in San Antonio

Jelena Lucin
May 29, 2024

Sixty-five San Antonio-area high school students and their mentors brought their scientific curiosity to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for an afternoon of discovery when the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Science Outreach and Communication Committee hosted its second annual Community Day event at the 2024 ASBMB Annual Meeting.  Students from two local schools and an academy program from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio spent the afternoon learning from and engaging with scientists.  

The students participated in several hands-on demonstrations, starting with the Escape the Cell challenge provided by RockEDU that illustrated the central dogma of molecular life sciences (DNA à RNA à protein). With support from the biotechnology education company Edvotek, students then practiced pipetting by numbers and learned about how CRISPR works using a 3D model of CRISPR origami.

For their last demo challenge, participants worked like basic science researchers, using the EDGE integrated electrophoresis system to load a gel, examine prepared, mock, DNA samples already cut by CRISPR-Cas9 and simulate an experiment that targets a genetic mutation found in a person with sickle cell disease.

When surveyed about their favorite part of the day, most students agreed it was the Meet a Scientist session. A panel of ten ASBMB member scientists from diverse backgrounds and at a variety of career stages shared their science journeys. The students then split off into 10-minute speed networking sessions with the chance to converse more directly with half of the panelists. Participants also had the opportunity to hear engaging three-minute science talks at the annual ASBMB Science in a Flash competition. They received some guidance in judging and chose the most impactful talk for the Students Choice Award. The day ended with a poster session scavenger hunt showcasing real-life scientific research and an ice cream social.

Clockwise from top left: San Antonio area high school students kick off Community Day with the Escape the Cell challenge. Sebastian Sauceda and Kelly Serrano, students at John Jay Science and Engineering Academy, show off their final product, a folded protein, for the Escape the Cell challenge. Two Community Day participants practice pipetting with Edvotek's Pipetting by Numbers SciArt kit. Akeyan Benavidez, a student at St. Philips Early College High School, loads an agarose gel to see how CRISPR-Cas9 cuts a DNA sequence from a genetic mutation. A student from the UT Health San Antonio Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy addresses the Meet a Scientist panelists. ASBMB volunteer Theodore Nelson shows a Community Day participant how to use a pipette.
ASBMB & Thomas Andrews/John Jay Science and Engineering Academy
Clockwise from top left: San Antonio area high school students kick off Community Day with the Escape the Cell challenge. Sebastian Sauceda and Kelly Serrano, students at John Jay Science and Engineering Academy, show off their final product, a folded protein, for the Escape the Cell challenge. Two Community Day participants practice pipetting with Edvotek's Pipetting by Numbers SciArt kit. Akeyan Benavidez, a student at St. Philips Early College High School, loads an agarose gel to see how CRISPR-Cas9 cuts a DNA sequence from a genetic mutation. A student from the UT Health San Antonio Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy addresses the Meet a Scientist panelists. ASBMB volunteer Theodore Nelson shows a Community Day participant how to use a pipette.

About 60 ASBMB members across career stages volunteered their time during the event. Meric Ozturk, a Ph.D. student at Iowa State University, spoke to the value of giving back as a volunteer.

“Connecting with high school students and observing their approaches to science and life was amazing,” Ozturk said. “Answering their questions and talking about my story was the value for me.”

Thomas Andrews, an educator at John Jay Science and Engineering Academy, said most students at his Title 1 school had never met a scientist before Community Day.

“It was very eye-opening for them to meet scientists at every level, undergrad through PI,” Andrews said. “I heard from several students after the ‘Science in a Flash’ that they now understood the importance and different styles of public speaking.”

Zuriel Morales, an educator from St. Philips Early College High School, said the experience reinforced his classroom efforts.

“It's extremely valuable for the students to see how a professional behaves in these types of settings as well as what they do,” he said. “Them seeing what real science looks like helps us as teachers show them what we have been trying to explain in class.”

Read more

Learn how Community Day got started.

Community Day broadens impact of DiscoverBMB  

Inspiring the next generation of scientists

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Jelena Lucin

Jelena Lucin is ASBMB's outreach and education coordinator.

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