Science Day Inspires Next Generation of Researchers
The sixth annual Science Day hosted recently by NIH aimed to engage students from disadvantaged communities by giving them an opportunity to interact with researchers and mentors here and to explore the world of biomedical sciences. Nearly 500 middle and high school students—many of them African American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian—participated in the event at Natcher Conference Center.
They listened to presentations about career options in biomedical research, participated in hands-on activities and lunched with a scientist. The presentations and activities helped students gain useful experiences and interact with STEM professionals about their personal journeys in science.
Dr. Courtney Aklin of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities said, “I am humbled to participate, along with my colleagues, in developing the minds of our future health care providers, researchers and scientists.”
Dr. Lynn Holden, co-founder and president of Mentoring in Medicine, Inc., said, “With this partnership, we are providing exposure, inspiration, education and empowerment for students to pursue biomedical careers. Through this immersion experience in science, we incorporated exploration with hands-on activities, networking with scientists and providing educational resources to plant the seeds to achieve a future career in health and science.”
During the opening panel titled “My Journey to a Career in the Biomedical Field,” many of the NIH scientists and biomedical professionals provided candid and encouraging stories of their careers. Their personal accounts of failure and success were directed toward empowering and encouraging the next generation to be innovators and believers in endless opportunities in STEM fields.
During the lunch sessions, small groups of students gathered around individual scientists to share academic, social and peer-related issues they’re encountering. The scientists listened to the students’ concerns and shared their own views about navigating the complexities of young adulthood. In many ways, Science Day wasn’t just about getting students interested in STEM fields. It was also about coaching the youngsters from minority communities about how to keep up in the fast-paced academic world.
NHLBI’s Dr. Melissa Green Parker said, “My heart is full given the inspiration I received after speaking with our next generation of STEM scholars. They are going to make us proud!”Dr. Richard Benson of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke noted, “You are what you are becoming.” He was there to inspire, encourage and support the next generation of underrepresented students.
Throughout the day, students received plenty of encouragement to not be deterred by their socioeconomic standing. Many of the NIH scientists expressed their gratitude for being able to give their opinions and feedback to the next generation and felt confident that the students would be successful in the future.—Janki Patel