A large warning sign greets you as you stumble to the hospital entrance: "DENGUE OUTBREAK: CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE". The viral disease that once spread only through the bite of a mosquito has now mutated! Dengue X is now able to spread from person to person! As you wander the city, quarantined houses on either side of the road, a bold thought comes to mind: "Why can't I, a junior scientist, combine my knowledge of molecular biology and immunology to find a cure for Dengue fever?" You quickly call up your colleagues from university and rent a laboratory space - there's still time to save the city!”
This is the scenario our high school STEPS students who participated in SOSAvember 2019 were tasked with. Using techniques associated with gene-editing and immunology, 93 high school students interacted with each other to eradicate a special strain of Dengue Fever from their community. We used concepts such a CRISPR (which has been utilized as a gene-editing tool to repair genetic mutations responsible for causing specific diseases), and ELISA (which uses antibodies to detect the presence of the virus in blood or other body fluid) to expose our students to technologies that allowed them to take the role of a researcher, and devise possible ways to eradicate diseases like Dengue.
In addition to learning how to detect if patients were infected and learning how we could use gene-editing to eliminate mutated genes, our hands-on experiments gave students an understanding of how herd immunity can protect those who are immunocompromised, or those who have allergic reactions to certain vaccines.
Our high-schoolers found that the possibilities are endless in a lab setting and they were superstars in using their imagination to think of how techniques like these can be applied in the future!
Thank you for your continued support – onward and upward in STEM!!
We are gearing up for an AMAZING STEPS program with exciting experiments that include teaching our younger students about the international space program. Here we use techniques such as aerodynamics and gravity.
Our high school students will be immersed in experiencing how to utilize the gene editing tool CRISPR for immunotherapy. Both of these topics are prominently featured in the news as cutting-edge breakthroughs in science and healthcare!! Not only will the students be introduced to the topics of genome editing and immunotherapy, we will engage them in current topics surrounding its possible impact on human health. We hope to spark a healthy debate of the ethical issues surrounding gene editing and herd immunity after completing the experiment.
We have over 200 students registered already for STEPS and numbers continue to grow! SOSA is extremely excited and looking forward to a successful program in the upcoming month! Thank you for your continued support in helping us to deliver such high-quality programming – please help us to spread the word as we approach November – tell your friends, family, network – EVERYONE!
SOSA takes pride in its volunteer opportunities! Our STEPS workshop is designed to excite and ignite the love of science in each young person who engages in the activities. We have found that not only does the workshop make a difference in the lives of our young students, but also in the lives of our volunteers. Volunteers for STEPS include anyone with a love for science ranging from local undergraduate students, to those who travel from the U.S. to seek a cultural volunteer opportunity, to graduate students, health professionals, college professors and even retirees. What we have experienced over the years is growth for all. Each person can touch the life of another, learn and grow from this experience. Our STEPS students rave about our volunteers making comments such as “I did not interact with scientists before, but today I did and it was really fun!” and our November 2018 workshop feedback indicated 97% of the students believed their interaction with STEPS scientists positively influenced how they now thought about science. Our volunteers come away with an equally rewarding experience, stating feelings of gratitude and that the passion for learning that the students show is inspirational. The cross-cultural experience of those who travel to volunteer for STEPS, as one volunteer described as, “Extremely beneficial and really opened my eyes to the world outside of my community putting things into perspective regarding our priorities vs. those in another country.” STEPS was designed to ignite the love of science in young people, but we have found that each person at our workshop impacts the life of the other. Each one reaches another!
SOSA is dedicated to exposing our students to cutting edge scientific theories. This past STEPS event we gave our high school students a taste of CRISPR. CRISPR is a gene-editing technique with applications such as developing biotechnology products and treatment of diseases such as Sickle Cell and Alzheimer’s Disease. Students were exposed to the elements of conducting a CRISPR experiment and there was riveting discussion in the ethical implications of gene replacement and its effects in our society.
Groups of students from each school competed against each other to see who could find the “mutated” gene and replace it with a “good” gene to “cure” the diseased patient first! With this interactive and fun method, we were able to not just expose students to the ethical implications of gene-editing but excite them of the process and promote inter-school interactions. Students responded with enthusiasm for learning about CRISPR as noted by quotes such as “….I got to learn how to cure some people’s diseases and help my family when they get sick” and “…I can make a society and the individuals lifespan longer and decrease the risk of death”.
It is our goal to expose as many students as possible to the innovative technologies in science and technology and we are happy to see that they are enjoying the process!
2018 ended on an exciting and productive note! On our most recent trip to Jamaica, we visited Allman Town Primary School for an assessment of our lab equipment donation!
SOSA had previously outfitted a science lab for Allman Town, with equipment that corresponded with their students’ curriculum. As you can imagine, we were excited to see how the equipment donated had been used! The school reported that approximately 39 students each week in Grade 6 alone now had hands-on lab time to accompany their science classroom lecture that takes place twice per week. We were informed that not only do Grades 4-6 benefit from the use of the lab space and equipment, but even students in their lower school such as Grade 2 were able to utilize the materials like the skeleton model!
Their principal and science teacher informed us that students are making use of equipment such as anatomy models of the whole skeleton, lungs, heart and brain, and that students have been able to examine the soil and its various components, while understanding the concepts associated with different layers. Our most exciting takeaway was that by providing these equipment to them, Allman Town is able to facilitate hands-on learning for multiple individuals, as opposed to only having access to just enough material for teacher demonstrations, with only observations possible for students. Allman Town has expressed the need for more equipment such as more anatomy models and prisms, and we plan to continue this working collaboration, as well as providing for additional schools with similar limitations.
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