Pathways to Science News
It was fun, and there were games, but the two-week “For a Girl” program was mostly about empowering young women to do and be whatever they dream.
Sponsored by Dr. Lynn Fiellin’s play2PREVENT Lab at the Yale Center for Health and Learning Games, nine girls heard life stories from successful female faculty members at the Yale School of Medicine and elsewhere at the university and designed video games that were meant to educate, not entertain. The three teams presented their games on Friday.
“Listening to other people’s experiences in life and college, I matured a bit from this program and realized, like a girl, I can be somebody someday,” said Kelsey Snedeker, 18, of New Haven, whose team designed a game about adoption.
An adoptee herself, Snedeker said her team was struck by how little information is available to assist adoptees and their parents. Doing a computer search for “another social justice problem, it would pop right up, but ‘adoption’ you can’t find anything,” she said. Snedeker will be a senior at Hill Regional Career High School.
The two other teams focused on women’s rights in a variety of cultures and on immigrants’ rights.
“For a Girl” is a reference to the phrase that is really a put-down of a girl’s abilities, said Fiellin, an associate professor of medicine: “‘You’re really smart — for a girl,’ or ‘You’re really good at that — for a girl.’”
A new initiative of the Yale Center for Health & Learning Games, created by Dr. Lynn Fiellin, ForAGirl is open to young women who are participating in the Yale Pathways to Science program, the university’s long-running summer program aimed at encouraging middle and high school students from New Haven schools to pursue careers in the sciences. Within Pathways, young scholars select a more specific track; ForAGirl is the latest of these specialized pathways. Its focus is to promote the engagement of female high school students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields as well as medicine and research, where even today, women are drastically underrepresented.
“‘You are really smart … for a girl …’ ‘You are really good at math … for a girl’” begins the introduction on ForAGirl’s website. “These statements highlight that sometimes girls and women are seen as being the ‘exception’ if they are smart or talented, while in fact they should be seen as the rule,” said Fiellin, director of the Yale Center for Health & Learning Games.
Yale has many partnerships with New Haven Public Schools, and New Haven students benefit from a wide range of opportunities to engage with Yale resources and programs well in advance of Bulldog Days. Yale’s largest investment is in the New Haven Promise, a location-based program that provides scholarships up to 100% of college tuition for residents and graduates of New Haven Public Schools and approved charter schools if they attend college in Connecticut.
New Haven Promise has disbursed over $5 million since inception and assisted more than 1,000 Promise Scholars since 2011. Yale is the principal funder of these scholarships. Over a five-year, phased-in implementation period, New Haven Promise has had a 165 percent increase in students enrolling and being funded at Connecticut’s public colleges. Promise’s growing internship program will place 100-120 Promise scholars in paid summer career-focused internships in 2017- with the majority of these placements at Yale University, adding another $500,000 in funding to help students reduce college debt.
The Yale Pathways to Science program also serves public schools students in New Haven with free programs, demonstrations, lectures, and laboratory visits at the Yale campus where they learn about cutting-edge advances in science from respected professors. Once students join the program they are invited to attend more than 50 different annual events. There are more than 1,000 students participating in the program and more than 300 program alumni enrolled in college. At the most recently Connecticut Science Fair, 21 Pathways students received distinguished awards, and 14 Pathways students were recently admitted to the Yale Class of 2021.
Dozens of Connecticut elementary and middle school students descended on Yale’s campus on March 4 to participate in a unique science outreach program run jointly by the Yale Scientific Magazine and Yale Pathways to Science.
Taking place on six Saturday mornings every year at Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, Science on Saturdays aims to teach science to local students in engaging and accessible ways. The event, an initiative from Yale’s Office of New Haven and State Affairs now in its 11th year, emphasizes hands-on learning through experiments and demonstrations.
“A program like Science on Saturdays is really crucial in getting students invested in science, especially because we present a side of science that you won’t get a lot of in the classroom — an experiment-based, hands-on side that is significantly more fun,” said Stephanie Smelyansky ’19, the president of Synapse.
The events, which are open to the public, include science demonstrations by student volunteers followed by a lecture by a Yale science or engineering professor. The demonstrations cover a wide range of scientific concepts, from microbiology to conservation of momentum.
On December 10, public high school students from New Haven and West Haven came to Yale for Ophthalmology Day, an experiential learning opportunity hosted by Yale Pathways to Science. The event brought 30 local teens to campus to receive hands-on lessons from School of Medicine students, faculty, and staff. During the half-day of activities, the students took virtual reality tours of the eye, practiced conducting an eye exam with a slit lamp machine, and dissected a cow’s eye.
Zlatko Minev (Applied Physics) will receive a Yale-Jefferson Public Service Award for creating and leading Open Labs, a highly successful science outreach program. Given by the Association of Yale Alumni, STAY(Students and Alumni of Yale), and the Washington-based Jefferson Awards for Public Service Foundation, the honor recognizes individuals who have inspired the Yale community through innovative, impactful, and sustained service for the greater good. It will be presented at the annual assembly of the Association of Yale Alumni on November 11.
Open Labs, launched in 2012, aims to make science exciting and the pathways to careers in science accessible to New Haven middle and high school students. It has already reached more than 1,200 public school students and parents and has expanded to the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Columbia. Harvard will be the next campus to open a chapter.
In his second year at Yale, Minev joined the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) and signed up for the Community Service Committee. “I wanted to share my passion as to why science is cool and amazing, and why quantum computing is going to be the next great thing,” he says. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, he had been mentored and inspired by graduate students, and “When I got to Yale, I wanted to be a role model for kids and guide them the same way I was guided.” He thought, “Let’s bring kids to Yale and show them what world class labs are like and what young scientists do. Let them step into our shoes.”
Minev contacted Maria Parente, program manager of Yale’s Pathways to Science program; and Claudia Merson, director of Yale’s Public School Partnership, in the Office of New Haven and State Affairs. “They provided an amazing foundation. They had already established many working relationships with the community” and helped him connect with local schools and students interested in science.
Open Labs’ signature event is the Science Café, an informal educational and social gathering at which three brief TED-style talks on cutting-edge research are presented. Following the presentations, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows sit down with the teenagers and interact informally over snacks. The younger students are encouraged to ask questions and move from table to table, and they are given prizes to motivate active participation. Forty people attended the first Science Café back in 2012. At the most recent event, there were 120 attendees (and a waiting list).
In addition to the Science Cafés, Open Labs holds follow-up lunches, brings science demonstrations into local schools, and provides digital content.
Jefrey Lopez, whose family hails from Mexico, decided he might vote for Donald Trump because it might result in a free trip back home.
Then he thought better of it.
He made the joke, and then the vote, as he and his 27 classmates in Laura Generoso’s eighth grade class participated in East Rock Community Magnet School‘s mock presidential election Tuesday, one week before Connecticut’s adults cast their own ballots in the official main event.
The election, at least at East Rock School, turned out not to be close.
Democratic Hillary Clinton won in a landslide, with 209 votes. Republican Trump won 19 votes, Green Jill Stein 19; and Gary Johnson 16.
“Last year, we had 109 different programs that students could come to,” says Maria Parente, coordinator of community programs in science at Yale. Selections range from family nights at the Leitner Observatory and Planetarium, to girls’ science investigations. “They get to see really strong women in science leading the charge,” says Parente.
And that’s one of the goals: to show kids that scientists come in all shapes, sizes, genders and colors.
“We try to bring through a cast of scientists that looks like them. Yale is a very diverse place,” says Zilm, noting the programs hope to dispel the perception that the Ivy League school is an intimidating, exclusive place. “It’s really accessible, very accessible — more accessible than people would think.”
Science on Saturdays, created in 2004 and presented by Yale Scientific Magazine, illustrates the collaborative spirit of the outreach. While aimed at middle school students, all are welcome. The program, held three times in the fall and three times in the spring, features fun lectures after the demonstrations. The crowd ranges anywhere from 150 to 300 people.
“We have kids that have attended every single one…which is really amazing,” says Zilm. The Oct. 15 class is called Birds are Living Dinosaurs: Dinosaurs are Stem Birds and runs from 10 a.m. to noon in the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory. Kids can just show up; there’s no registration.
On Saturday, September 24th, 171 New Haven middle school girls took over Sloane Physics Lab to broaden their scientific horizons and discover the properties of light. This event, “The World of Light” was organized by Girls’ Science Investigations, a free program for New Haven middle school girls founded in 2007 by Yale physics professor Bonnie Fleming. The goal of the program is to empower young women by showing them that they can be successful in the realm of science. The students spent five hours Saturday experimenting with and creating projectors, periscopes, optical fiber flowers and virtual reality goggles.
Two summer programs have returned to the New Haven community this year: Pathways Summer Scholars Program and the Ulysses S. Grant Program. The Pathways Summer Scholars Program is a free, two-week long program for 100 high school students, in which current Yale students serve as teaching assistants and mentors. This summer, workshops on green chemistry, web development and coding, neurobiology, consciousness, and more are being offered for the first time. Virtually all the participants are among the 1,077 students who are involved in other Yale Pathways STEM programs during the school year. A more longstanding program, the U.S. Grant Program, which was founded in 1953, is a six-week summer program for talented middle school students. Each morning, current Yale students teach small, single-grade classes of their own design to challenge and excite the students. The program has 77 New Haven students participating this summer.
At the second annual Pathways to Genomics and Proteomics Day, twenty-five local middle and high school students from the Yale Pathways to Science program spent the day on campus learning about “omics” science and the cutting-edge research driving future discoveries in personalized medicine. To kick-off the event, Sarah Slavoff, of the Chemical Biology Institute, first introduced students to the human genome and later Yale graduate students and post-docs from Cell Biology, Chemistry, Genetics, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and Neuroscience departments led a variety of hands-on activities and demonstrations. Among the activities, students were able to make green fluorescent protein stickers, tour the Yale Center for Genome Analysis, discuss ‘bad science’ in movies, learn about mass spectrometry, and create their own DNA necklaces.
High school students from across Greater New Haven visited Yale F&ES on April 2 for the fourth “Green Careers, Women Leaders,” an annual event in which F&ES students share leadership skills with young women from across the region and showcase the variety of environmental career paths available to them.
Co-hosted by the F&ES group EQUID (Equity, Inclusion, Diversity), this year’s event welcomed students from 13 high schools.
“The day is filled with a variety of activities: leadership training, mentorship between the students and the F&ES community, career panels with professionals, and a chance for the girls to network with other peers,” said Jessica Leung ’17 M.E.M., who led the event. “While students of all backgrounds are welcome, we specifically wanted to target urban schools and minorities.”
Individual sessions during the day included tours of Kroon Hall and the Yale Farm, an exercise in environmental writing, and discussions about green architecture and environmental justice. Students also learned about different fields of environmental research, why current F&ES and Yale College students and faculty decided to study the environment, and how young women can “flex their leadership muscles.”
SheCode is a program for middle and higher school girls from the Elm City, that teaches them the fundamentals of coding. Girls in this program learn how to use coding to create their own websites, games, and designs. Started last fall by Joyce Chen ‘16 and Erika Hairston ‘18, this program features three sessions each semester, each two hours long. In the first session of this semester there were already around 25 girls in its first session of the semester. Students will learn programming languages like Scratch and Python through lectures and hands-on practice. In the first session, girls began to brainstorm ideas for their spring projects, including topics such as volleyball, virtual pianos, and the planet Venus. SheCode is driven to empower young, local female coders in a currently male dominated field.
For the past 10 years, the Science on Saturdays program has given community members insight into the life of Yale faculty and undergraduates. On six Saturdays every academic year, Pathways students and their parents gather on the second floor of Sterling Chemistry Lab for the event. For the first hour, Yale undergraduate and graduate students give hands-on demonstrations on a variety of scientific principles. The crowd then flows into a lecture hall for an hour-long presentation by one of Yale’s many renowned faculty. Science on Saturdays is a joint venture presented by the Yale Scientific Magazine (YSM) and hosted by Kurt Zilm, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering. It is organized by Yale Synapse, YSM’s outreach group, and Yale Pathways to Science.
Previous presentations have spanned topics from “Why Birds Are Dinosaurs” to “The Universe in Your Hands.” The event highlighted in this article featured Stefan Simon, Director of the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, who presented a lecture on how forensic analysis is used to identify art fraud. As an expert conservation specialist, he explained how he uses technology and chemistry to examine pieces of art and to pinpoint fakes. This lecture was followed by two demonstrations outside of the lecture hall, respectively about the separation of components of a pigment, known as chromatography and use of camera filters to see the preliminary carbon sketches of old paintings.
IPCH participated with hands-on experiments and a lecture on forensic analysis in the field of cultural heritage at Science on Saturdays on January 31, 2015. Science on Saturdays is an award-winning public lecture and activity series designed to raise interest in science and engineering and is hosted by Kurt Zilm and Yale’s Science Outreach. The event on the 31st involved a lecture by IPCH director Stefan Simon and engaging science demonstrations by members of the IPCH’s Technical Studies Lab, Drs. Aniko Bezur, Erin Mysak, and Jens Stenger.
Science on Saturdays is an award-winning lecture series that conveys the excitement of research and the passion of scientists to school-age children in New Haven and beyond. The event introduces middle-school-age children to scientists and explores who they are, and how and why they study what they do. It is designed to shatter stereotypes about scientists and to show the fun of science. The Yale faculty members participating in the program are of various backgrounds, ages, and disciplines. Each event involves a lecture and an engaging science demonstration and/or game run by Yale college students.
“Germ Busters! The Genetics Behind Our Amazing Immune System (or, why we aren’t sick all the time)” is the topic of the next Science on Saturdays event there will be a hands-on demonstration from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and a lecture from 11 a.m. to noon.
The question that lecturer Aida Behmard ’15 posed to her class in the basement of Leet Oliver Memorial Hall at last Saturday’s Resonance, a one-day science outreach program, was admittedly a tad “philosophical” for high schoolers: why do supermassive black holes exist, anyway? But when Behmard turned from the blackboard to face her students a moment later, it was to a roomful of raised hands.
Mitra Miri (Neuroscience) has been a Fellow at the Graduate School’s Office for Diversity and Equal Opportunity at Yale (ODEO), mentored a local student through the Hill Neighborhood Mentoring Program, and worked as a graduate assistant for the Science, Technology and Research Scholars Program, which is designed to support women, minority, economically underprivileged, and other historically underrepresented students in the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. But arguably her most ambitious volunteer project is Brain Education Day, which she has coordinated for the past three years in collaboration with ODEO, the Yale Pathways to Science Program, and fellow student Nikki Woodward (Neuroscience). This day-long event brings about 100 local public school students to campus, where they visit labs and interact with graduate students, undergraduates, medical students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty. Last year’s program included sheep brain dissections and sessions on comparative neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and sensation and perception. Mitra’s dissertation research focuses on seizures and what inhibits them on a cellular level. However, one of her main motivations is to make neuroscience accessible to non-scientists, a goal which she also pursues through the Yale Neuroscience Outreach Program, which is dedicated to promoting knowledge about and interest in neuroscience to local K-12 students through school visits.