Upcounty students experiment with help of local scientists -- Gazette.Net


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When Royal Safo, 12, saw “real scientists” in his classroom Wednesday, he said he started to think about if he would want to be a scientist when he grows up.

“[With science], even by accident, you can find something that no one else has found,” said Royal, a Neelsville Middle School seventh-grader. “And I definitely want to do that in my job.”

In an effort to encourage students to think about science and medicine as a career, local scientists visited Forest Oak and Neelsville middle schools in Gaithersburg and Germantown this week to talk about what they do and give students hands-on experience with lab equipment.

“We’re here to support the young scientists of tomorrow,” said Jeff Durocher, a sales representative from Qiagen, a Germantown biotechnology company, who was at Neelsville on Wednesday.

The two schools are participating Oct. 26 in Frontiers in Science and Medicine Day, an event hosted by the Universities of Shady Grove, Johns Hopkins University and other colleges, companies and organizations.

About 600 seventh-grade students from the schools will go on a field trip to a local laboratory, where they will participate in hands-on activities with scientists, physicians and researchers, and then attend an event at the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center in Rockville.

In Karen Doerrler’s seventh-grade science classroom on Wednesday, Durocher and scientists from nonprofit group MdBio Foundation, and Vaxin, a Gaithersburg bioscience company, taught Royal and his peers how to use a micropipettes to mix precise amounts of liquid.

The activity was designed by MdBioLab, a foundation program dedicated to providing education.

In the “micropipette challenge,” students followed steps to transfer microliters of colored liquids to create a rainbow.

“You know you’re doing it right with scientists in the room,” said Alexandra Colindres, 12.

Alexandra said science is her favorite subject.

“It is interesting what you can find out about the world, and sometimes about yourself and your body,” she said.

Bill Enright, president of Vaxin, said that, with science, hands-on activities are best for children.

“It can really get them interested, because you get them excited about the hands-on work,” Enright said.

The activity would help them in their learning later in the spring when they learn more about lab techniques and DNA, Doerrler said.

Most importantly, Doerrler said, it made them think about their choices for a career.

“Programs like this are great because it builds on [background knowledge] and gives them a next step,” she said. “It allows them to see that there is a next step.”

jbondeson@gazette.net