The Weill Cornell Graduate School (WCGS) promotes public awareness and understanding of science through science outreach initiatives. By contributing to science education and mentorship in the broader community, the WCGS students, faculty and staff help to spread enthusiasm for the STEM fields among youth in the New York City area. Over 100 student and postdoctoral volunteers are coordinated through the Tri-Institutional Outreach Committee (TOrC) to conduct science outreach in the Tri-Institutional community and beyond. TOrC initiatives include:
A 10-week program designed to offer New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) Explainers and WCGS students and post-docs the opportunity to work together as mentee and mentor on a scientific project in a laboratory setting. Mentees and mentors are paired as closely as possible on the basis of scientific interests and work on a project designed by the mentor. NYSCI Explainers learn about the research focus of the WCGS mentor’s laboratory and have hands on experiences in assisting with experiments under the guidance of his or her mentor. The program culminates in a poster session in which mentees present their research and answer questions from other participants and WCGS graduate students and post-docs.
TOrC assists the Weill Cornell Children’s Health Council in creating a morning of science events for elementary school aged children and their families. In February of 2015, TOrC members planned and implemented a rotation of four stations for older children and two stations for younger children. Activities for older children were: Microscope/Strawberry DNA activity (Molecular Biology), Molecular Modeling (Molecular Science), Brushbots (Physics), and Slime (Chemistry). Activities for younger children were Fossils (Earth Science) and Brain Hats (Neuroscience).
Neuroscience related activities are carried out in public schools throughout the boroughs of NYC (including Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan) by graduate students, post-docs, and faculty from the Tri-I volunteer network. These events are planned in collaboration with Rockefeller Outreach and involve meeting with three or four classes of students per visit. Activities include: the jelly bean taste test, touch receptor test, reaction time test, sensory perception test, memory tests, comparative neuroanatomy, and a neuron card game. Approximately 825 students in grades 3-5 participated in these activities over the seven visits in 2015, and we expect to reach 1,000 students across the NYC area in 2016.
In collaboration with Rockefeller outreach, TOrC volunteers plan and host full days of science for classes of high school students. Activities have included a STEM-themed day with different hands-on stations representing each field as well as students isolating and visualizing mitochondrial DNA. During the lunch hour, volunteers interact with students, sharing their “scientific journey,” answering questions, and discussing various career options for students interested in science.
The SMART program is run globally through the Milwaukee School of Engineering and involves high school students working closely with a scientific mentor to complete a research project involving the study of a protein through its structure and function. TOrC matches volunteers to mentor teams of students throughout the winter and spring. This experience culminates in a symposium attended by the students, teachers, and family members of the NYC area high schools. Students give brief oral presentations on their research projects followed by a poster session.