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CONNECTING and PARTNERING WITH THE COMMUNITY!

July 26th, 2022

Shadow A Scientist has been keeping busy this summer! This June, we presented in the Education Session at the 2022 Southeast Regional Society for Developmental Biology Conference held in Chapel Hill. We are thankful to the organizers for inviting us to speak alongside Sara Faccidomo and Veronica Segarra.

Later that month, we had a lot of fun cheering on runners at the Strides for STEM race held by NC DNA Day and WinSPIRE! Thank you for stopping by our booth!

We are also very excited to announce that Shadow A Scientist was recently awarded $5,000 from Rosetta Commons to help launch and fund in-person visits this upcoming semester!

Rosetta Commons is the premier suite for macromolecular modeling. Additionally, Rosetta Commons is the central hub for hundreds of developers and scientists from 100+ universities and laboratories to contribute and share the source code.

Besides advancing the field of computational protein engineering, Rosetta Commons has given back to the community by organizing summer REUs and post-baccalaureate programs. If you know someone interested in protein engineering, please help spread the word about these fantastic paid research opportunities!

EASTER EGG HUNT, CORAL REEFS, AND BRAIN TUMOR ROBOTS!

April 29th, 2022

Shadow A Scientist partnered with Duplin County Health Sciences Academy for our second visit of the Spring semester!

30 students from 9-12th grade AP biology and biology classes joined Zoom individually through their own computers in class. We started the visit with an introduction session where we asked students which emoji best describes their mood today. We then asked the students to close their eyes and picture what a scientist looks like.

Next, students watched the “Week in the Life of a Scientist” video presentation by our science ambassador Maria Al Haddad who studies the interaction of proteins. She showed a video where she showed her lab, lab meeting, some research techniques, and a surprise Easter egg hunt event. The students then asked questions such as, “What is the most interesting thing you learned about protein?” and “What is the best part of the job?”. Maria replied that her favorite part of being a scientist is “where you discover something that you didn’t expect. And you decide what to do with it and how to move forward. And the interaction and collaboration with other scientists.”

Our next session covered a “Path in Science” presentation by Aliyah Griffith, a 3rd-year Ph.D. student in marine science. She discussed how her high school aquarium shadowing experience got her interested in marine biology. During her bachelors Aliyah traveled to an island to study coral reefs for 6 weeks, which was a very exciting experience for her. She explained to the students that there are different aspects of a marine scientist including being an adventurer, scientist, coder, and public speaker. The students were very engaged and asked her questions such as what she preferred better, working in the field or in the lab, and how much time she spent in the lab versus the field. Aliyah explained that this all depends on the person’s research question but she preferred the field and worked as needed in the lab. This helped the students to realize there are many areas of research and it can be very different from what they envisioned.

Following this presentation, students heard another “Path in Science” presentation by Nisitha Sengottuvel, who went straight into medical school after college and is pursuing a MD-PhD track. This is a very different research track from a traditional doctorate program, which was a great exposure opportunity for students to consider a different research path. Nisitha mentioned she learned how to program a brain surgery robot with a brain tumor in high school which first got her interested in science and research. She provided the students with an excellent tip on how to obtain funding for your research, “If you show passion, people like to donate money to your cause and that is how I received a scholarship to Ohio State University to do research.” Students were interested in her experience with medical school and a Ph.D. program. She said that medical school is hard, there is a lot of information and she feels the responsibility to definitely know the material and is under a lot of pressure. On the other hand, she said a Ph.D. track is different “where you are an explorer trying to find new information and you need to become creative and learn how to troubleshoot and solve problems.”

Next, we had a “Virtual Lab Tour” video presented by Whitney Bell, a 3rd year student studying pancreatic cancer. Whitney showed the students her histology station, cell culture hoods, incubators, and lab safety stations such as eyewash and shower. One interesting thing the students enjoyed was seeing a mouse pancreas with a tumor histology slide and another slide that shows immunohistochemistry staining that turns protein of interest in shades of brown. The students became interested in her area of study and asked about it. She said she studies how B cells can influence pancreatic tumor progression and response to treatment and her lab is more interested in the mechanism of disease progression.

Lastly, we held a Q&A panel with two science ambassadors, Dr. Adrienne Erickcek and Kimberly Lukasik. One student-asked question was: “Do you find it is worth it to be in school for this long? It’s not the same school as in high school?” The reply from Adrienne was that “doing a Ph.D. is more like an apprenticeship.” The students also wanted to know what the best part of a graduate school PhPh.D.as and Kimberly replied that “I get to design my day, when I want to leave and what experiments I want to do. This gives me a little bit of freedom.” Another question asked was, “Have you ever not liked science and how did you deal with overcoming not liking science?” Adrienne replied, “There are a lot of aspects of physics that I don’t like and had to take courses on.” These questions and answers provided the students with additional perspectives about what it is like and the hurdles they have to overcome while training to be a research scientist.

We wrapped up the visit with a few reflection question for the students: Do you see scientific research any differently? What are you curious about now? We let the students know that there are many research opportunities available to them and if they are interested. Overall, this was an excellent visit and the teacher commented that the students “were glued to the screen.” We are very thankful to the teacher, students, and of course our science ambassadors in making this visit a success! Hopefully, there are some budding scientists in the classroom now!

BLOOD VESSELS, SOCCER, and SUPERPOWERS

March 29th, 2022 

Shadow A Scientist partnered with East Burke High School in Connelly Springs for our first visit of the Spring semester!

Our virtual visit began with an introduction encompassing the general journey to obtaining a PhD in science and the different types of career opportunities available to them. 

During the visit, Molly Kulikauskas, a graduate student in the Bautch lab, gave a lab tour which included her work on using liver samples to study blood vessel formation and the impressive microscopes her lab uses. Check out her lab tour here!

Afterwards, three scientists shared their paths to their science careers from high school till now. Morgan Walker, a graduate student in the Redinbo lab, described how her interests evolved from veterinary medicine to studying the diversity of gut microbial enzymes. Nicole Hondrogiannis, a first-year BBSP graduate student, expressed how important having multiple interests can be in science – a scientist with an interdisciplinary background can provide unique insights into research projects. Lastly, Sabrina Daglish, another first-year BBSP graduate student, gave an honest portrait of how the pandemic affected her undergraduate career and limited the research experience opportunities she would have had before coming to graduate school. Overall, some of the general advice that our scientists shared include: take opportunities when they knock, you can find success even with limited prior experience, and that college is a great time to discover your (scientific) interests.

We ended our visit with an open Q&A panel featuring three graduate students: Sarah Brotman from the Mohlke lab, Saygin Gulec from BBSP, and Brian Lerch from the Servedio lab. This session grants high school students a chance to get to know highly accomplished scientists on a personal level. Our panelists answered student questions including what made you like science? Are scientists paid? What impact does your work have on the world? What do you do outside of research? And, importantly, are you happy? One favorite moment emerged when a student asked if scientists are close to engineering superpowers in real life and our panelists shared that science has enabled amazing achievements such as making proteins glow (potentially glow in the dark cats) and engineering oil-eating bacteria

We are grateful to our amazing science ambassadors who always provide excellent talks and honest advice. Moreover, we are so thankful to the high school students who made this event so fun, engaging, and rewarding! We hope to see you all again soon!

UPWARD BOUND

December 2nd, 2021

For our final visit of 2021, we partnered with Upward Bound, a pre-college program that supports students in their pursuit of higher education! 

During this visit, Reagan Bullins, a first-year BBSP graduate student debuted a new virtual presentation format dubbed “Week in the Life of a Scientist” in which she documented the highly diverse and interdisciplinary skills used by scientific researchers. She also highlighted some of the incredible technology and scientific models she uses as a rotation student in Flavio Frohlich’s lab!

Next, Susanna Liang who is a second-year chemistry PhD student in the Nicewicz lab presented an awesome slideshow about the basic chemistry behind her research project. She also gave students an insight into her work by combining short video clips of chemical reactions and a longer walk through video of her lab space!

Brian Lerch, a biology PhD student in Maria Servedio’s lab then shared about his path to science and graduate school. Brian discussed how his work as a behavioral ecologist has taken him around the globe to answer interesting and vital questions about how the world works!

The visit was capped off with an interactive Q&A session chaired by Jessica McAfee (first-year BBSP graduate student),  Emily Witt (graduate student in the Reissner lab), and Sarah Brotman (graduate student in the Mohlke lab). Our ambassadors provided thoughtful answers to questions about how they became interested in science, the skills needed to become a scientist, and what they enjoy about their work!

Thank you to our science ambassadors, Upward Bound, and participating students for making this trip so fun and educational! We are excited to bring virtual Shadow A Scientist trips to more students in 2022!

EAST BLADEN HIGH SCHOOL

November 10th, 2021 – DNA, Brains, and Paid Internships!

Shadow A Scientist was excited that our fifth virtual visit was with 40 sophomore students from East Bladen High School in North Carolina!

This visit we incorporated a new feature – Meggan Alston (a biology graduate student) shared a vlog-style video highlighting what a typical 8-hour day looks like as a scientist! It was so cool for the students to see how much time is spent writing, reading, and coding, in addition to doing lab experiments. 

We next heard from Rose Glass, a graduate student in the neuroscience program, who gave the students a virtual tour around her lab. She showed us the detailed processes and equipment she uses to create mini models of brains, called brain organoids! 

Then, Aliyah Griffith (a graduate student in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UNC) and Lucia Grandison (a first year graduate student in the BBSP program) both gave incredible presentations about their paths in science! 

Aliyah spoke about how experiences before college (at the Georgia aquarium and veterinary hospital) and her research exposure (University of Tampa, UCLA, Hampton University, and UNC) helped her navigate in her scientific career. She wisely told the students, “No research experience is a bad experience when it comes to seeking a passion”. She also emphasized that marine scientists wear many hats, from being adventurers, scientists, coders, and performing outreach. We encourage you to check out a group that Aliyah works closely with called Mahogany Mermaids that focuses on mentoring children of color in the aquatic sciences! 

Lucia explained how her journey in science has taken her all over the country and shared some amazing resources for young students interested in getting involved in science! Please check them out below: 

Lastly, we had a Q&A panel featuring Lindsey Hernandez (a first year graduate student in the BBSP program) & Kimberly Lukasik (a graduate student in the cell biology & physiology program). Together they answered students’ questions about how scientists can tell if their results are trustworthy, and discussed how to get paid experiences in science research!

Thank you so much to our science ambassadors and students for making this such a fun and educational virtual visit!

 

EAST BURKE HIGH SCHOOL

October 19th, 2021

We kicked off Fall 2021 with a virtual Shadow A Scientist visit with East Burke High School in Connelly Springs, North Carolina!

During the visit, PhD student Molly Kulikauskas showed the students her laboratory in the department of Cell Biology & Physiology at UNC. She explained the detailed and powerful process of staining slides for microscopic analysis of the liver.

Next, we heard from Morgan Walker, a biological chemistry PhD student in the Redinbo lab about her path in science, from her interest in veterinary medicine to her current research on the human gut microbiome.

Odessa Goudy, a PhD student in the Kulhman lab, then shared how her upbringing in a small town in Oregon and summer research experiences shaped her love of science.

Next we heard a fascinating talk from Pa Chia Thao, a graduate student in Astronomy & Physics. Pa Chai explained how being exposed to aerospace activities like robotics competitions, space camp, and even flight simulator training influenced her decision to become a scientist.

To wrap up the visit, we had an open Q&A panel hosted by two first-year Biological & Biomedical Sciences Program graduate students, Sabrina Daglish and Savannah Wright. Our ambassadors answered questions like:

    • “What made you want to go to graduate school?”

    • “How do you overcome failures?”

    • “Do you use a lot of math in your everyday work?”

    • “How did you decide what you wanted to study?”

Thank you to our science ambassadors and students for making this trip engaging, and full of helpful advice to our future scientists!

CARVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

May 21st, 2021

Our last virtual visit of the year was our largest ever, with over 150 third through fifth grade students at Carver Elementary School in Wendell joining Shadow A Scientist for an hour with our UNC scientists!

Odessa Goudy, a Shadow A Scientist team leader and a biochemistry and biophysics graduate student in the Kuhlman lab, began the visit with a presentation on how she builds molecular machines with proteins and compared it to building intricate structures with Legos. Then, biology graduate student Meggan Alston introduced us to her research using Tobacco Hornworm Caterpillars and led a pre-recorded lab tour, which included a demonstration of how the Willett lab prepares food for all of the caterpillars. Next, Abigail Ballard, a second-year biochemistry and biophysics graduate student in the Bergmeier lab, shared the tools and machines she uses to study platelets in a lab tour video. 

 

After the lab and research presentations, graduate students Shveta Parekh, Morgan Gibbs, and Kimberly Lukasik participated in an open Q&A session. Examples of questions students asked include why they became scientists, what their favorite thing about research is, and how they manage to learn how to use all the tools/machines in their labs. 

We had so much fun interacting with this curious and clever group of young students, who we hope will one day become future scientists!

ST. MARY’S HIGH SCHOOL

April 27th, 2021

Shadow A Scientist hosted our second virtual visit, our fourth visit overall! Over sixty young women from St. Mary’s School in Raleigh met with 5 UNC scientists during a Lunch and Learn event!

      
 

The visit started with a research presentation about coral reef ecosystem growth and cover patterns from Aliyah Griffith, a graduate student in the Institute of Marine Sciences at UNC. Then Laura Mccormick, a graduate student studying neuron development in the Gupton lab, showed the various instruments she uses in her research during a virtual lab tour. 

We then hosted a Q&A session highlighting the unique paths to science that led the next three speakers to pursue careers in science. Dr. Abigail Agoglia shared her path from undergraduate at SUNY Binghamton to her postdoctoral position in the Herman lab. Juanita Limas illustrated a non-traditional path (or the “scenic route”) where she volunteered with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua after receiving her undergraduate degrees, then taught at a community college, and is now a graduate student in the Cook lab studying the differences in DNA replication in cancerous versus healthy cells. Pa Chia Thao, a graduate student in Astronomy & Physics, wrapped up the session by sharing how her fascination with the stars and space led her to observatories all over the US and now to UNC where she studies how planets evolve throughout their lifetimes. 

SHADOW A SCIENTIST GOES VIRTUAL

March 11th, 2021

Almost one year after the visit was originally planned (delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic) 12 high school physics and engineering students from St. David’s School in Raleigh virtually visited with 5 UNC scientists through Shadow A Scientist! 

To start off the visit, the students heard a talk from Dr. Adrienne Erickcek, an Assistant Professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy, on the explosion of space. Mugdha Polimera, a graduate student pursuing her PhD in Astrophysics and Astrostatistics, then led a pre-recorded tour around her lab, which has remote access to the SOAR telescope in Chile, and presented a talk on how scientists measure which galaxies are moving towards or away from Earth. 

Additionally, three graduate students shared their path to science and answered questions on the daily life of a scientist. Max Hockenberry is currently a first year graduate student in the department of Cell Biology and Physiology who shared that his path to research started in high school after learning about the ATP synthase. Tim Daurgird, a pharmacology graduate student in the Legant Lab, gave insight into a non-traditional path which began by working after high school, teaching sustainable farming, attending community college, then transferring to UNC almost a decade after graduating high school. Brandon Le, a neuroscientist in the Stein Lab, shared how his path in science started as a young child raised in Alaska and led him to a career in science education and then to graduate school. 

After the visit, the teacher wrote in to say, “My students had a great time. They were so impressed by the speakers’ knowledge and by how many of you dedicated time to facilitating this field trip.” We are grateful to our dedicated science ambassadors who made this outreach event possible!

STUDENTS VISIT UNC LABORATORIES!

February 24th, 2020

16 middle and high school students visited the UNC campus to participate in Shadow A Scientist! The visiting students shadowed two scientists throughout the day and heard talks from Sarah Brotman, in the Department of Genetics, and Aliyah Griffith, in the Marine Science Program, during lunch!

We are grateful to our dedicated science ambassadors who hosted students in their labs as well as presented during lunch!

Here are some fast stats and quotes from our student survey that we wanted to share with you:

      • Every student said that after both shadowing experiences, they were all “more interested” in learning about science!

      • My favorite part of the visit is: “That I could and was able to see exactly what a field for me in the future would look like”.

      • My favorite part of the visit is: “Learning about equipment, different problems the scientists were working on, learning about cutting-edge science and cool discoveries”

Thank you so much to our ambassadors for hosting our visiting students and eating lunch with them! We are so pleased by everyone’s responses – which shows there’s always room to create rewarding science outreach opportunities!

CONNECTING WITH LOCAL TEACHERS!

September 27th, 2019

Our three co-founders had a booth at this year’s SciREN, the Scientific Research and Education Network, at Raleigh’s NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

We were so excited to meet and connect with enthusiastic teachers all across North Carolina! We hope you had a chance to stop by to meet us and ask questions about our program – and take home a handmade science cookie!

In case you were unable to attend the 2019 SciREN, we invite you to contact us to learn more about Shadow A Scientist or apply to our program to schedule an on-campus visit!

OUR FIRST ON-CAMPUS VISIT!

May 2nd, 2019

We had our first Shadow A Scientist visit on April 26th 2019!

Katie, a senior from Carrboro High School shadowed Juanita Limas in Jean Cook’s lab and Nisitha Sengottuvel in Chad Pecot’s lab. She observed cell culture experiments, learned about the life of a researcher, and toured the medical school! She also ate lunch with four graduate students, Tim Daugird, Katie Acken, Keean Braceros, and Ennessa Curry. Additionally, she attended the genetics and molecular biology seminar by Dr. Ting Wang entitled “Transposable elements and epigenome evolution” to get exposed to the different ways science is shared with others!

Thank you so much to our ambassadors for hosting Katie and eating lunch with her!