Middle School Students Get a Hands-On Look at Science and Medicine

October 9, 2009
200 7th Graders Attend First Frontiers in Science and Medicine Day at Shady Grove Life Sciences Center

Montgomery county middle school students had a rare opportunity on October 9 to learn first-hand about exciting career opportunities in medicine and science during the Frontiers in Science and Medicine Day at the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center. The event grew out of a collaboration among health-care providers, biotech companies, universities, and research organizations on the Rockville campus and is designed to help increase interest in careers in science and medicine among local students.

“Frontiers in Science and Medicine offers organizations in the Life Sciences Center a chance to teach local students about exciting career opportunities in science and medicine, right here in our community, ” said Dennis Hansen, president of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, the first company in the Life Sciences Center. “Whether they are learning about sequencing the human genome or about a cutting-edge surgical procedure, these students will have an opportunity to see how classroom lessons are applied in real life.”

The students who attended the Frontiers day are from Shady Grove Middle School in Gaithersburg, which is piloting the new 7th grade Investigations in Science curriculum. During the event, the 200 seventh graders spent an hour visiting one of 14 working labs in and around the Life Sciences Center and another hour visiting a science exhibit hall on the Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus where 11 organizations — including some from beyond the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center — presented “hands-on” science experiments or demonstrations.

"Our nation needs more students to become interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and math if we are to remain competitive internationally," said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools. "This innovative partnership with some of the country's leading bioscience companies that are located in our community is a fantastic way to help students understand the real world applications of what they are learning in the classroom and hopefully spark an interest in them to pursue a career in these critical fields."

The Frontiers day concluded with a “lunch and learn” session during which students ate lunch in small groups with scientists and other professionals working for science and medical organizations who can answer questions and provide insight into their professions and training.

“We hope that this opportunity to see science happening and to interact with scientists will help generate excitement about the vast career opportunities in science and medicine,” said Elaine Amir, executive director, Johns Hopkins Montgomery County. “It’s important that we foster interest in science and medicine now — at a young age — to ensure our county’s, and our country’s economic future.”

“All of us taking part in Frontiers in Science and Medicine Day are thrilled about sharing the excitement, fulfillment, and sheer joy of science and medicine with the students,” said Dr. Christopher Austin, director of the NIH Chemical Genomics Center. “We hope that this is the beginning of an ongoing relationship with Montgomery County Public Schools to excite students about science and interest them in biomedical careers.”

According to Dr. Stewart Edelstein, executive director of the Universities at Shady Grove, which is participating in the Frontiers Day, "We expect that this day in the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center will capture the interest of students and encourage them to follow an education pathway to become the next generation of scientists and health professionals.”

The Shady Grove Life Sciences Center was established by Montgomery County in 1983 as universities and biotechnology companies and organizations established themselves around the Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. The Life Sciences Center was the first business park in the United States to be zoned exclusively for biotechnology and life sciences industries. Today, it is the nucleus of the county’s life sciences cluster, which boasts more than 200 private companies and 45,000 professionals.

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