Genetics

Stanford at The Tech: Student Testimonials

2010-2012 Participants

Winter & Spring 2010

Debbie Barragan
Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling

Research interest:
Culture and Genetic Counseling
The Stanford at the Tech program was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences I had while at Stanford. There are few things as gratifying as seeing children’s eyes light up because they successfully spooled DNA from cow thymus or watching hesitant adults engage in and enjoy activities and conversations about inheritance patterns. One of my favorite memories was of a young boy who completed an experiment with me and then stayed behind to help me teach the next group. Making science as fun for others as it is for me is something I hope to continue doing. Loving science is a work in progress. The Stanford at the Tech program allowed me to take an active role in that process.
Ed Chuong
Grad Student, Genetics
Julie Baker Lab

Research interest:
Mammalian evolution and genomics
The Tech was a great experience and one that all grad students should seriously consider. At first I was worried that it'd be hard to connect with the kids but it turned out to be a lot of fun--there's an inner scientist in everyone! In all it was eye-opening and rewarding in ways that you don't get from working in lab.
Ellyn Farrelly
Master’s Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling

Research interest:
Genetic counseling and attitudes towards disability
The Tech was a perfect complement to my graduate studies! Working at The Tech has provided me with invaluable skills for my future as a genetic counselor. Genetic counselors take complex, genetic information and try to make it understandable for patients. Each week at The Tech gave me the chance to think about genetic information in a new way and to practice different ways I might communicate that information. I feel I am better prepared for the clinic having worked at the Tech. In the same way that I am invested in patient understanding, I also care deeply about the public perception of science and scientists. Running the demonstration table at The Tech gave me the opportunity to make science come alive for both children and adults. And I took extreme joy in providing kids, especially the little ones, with the chance to meet a “real scientist” and do “real science.” Their excitement about participating in the experiments was contagious. The Tech is providing education that many of these children would not get otherwise and I am glad to have been a part of that!

Spring & Summer 2010

Erika Bustamante
Grad Student, Developmental Biology
Seung Kim Lab
Research interest:
Genetic regulation of pancreas development
I was lucky to be part of this wonderful experience! The best part for me was to get the kids excited about a particular concept or an experiment. There's nothing more fun than watching a kid realize their talent and perhaps a love for science. It was very fulfilling to know that I made even a tiny contribution to someone's education. Answering questions at Ask a Geneticists and working with the kids at the different exhibits was a great way to explore different areas of science education. You can’t really experience any thing like this in any class. Overall, the Tech reminded me of why I went into science and allowed me to explore challenges that strengthen my interest in science education.
Dan Kvitek
Grad Student, Genetics
Gavin Sherlock Lab
Research interest:
Molecular basis of adaptive evolution
Working at the Tech was a fun, rewarding, and overall a fantastic experience. There's something genuine and invigorating about teaching kids about the stuff I'm passionate about, while at the same time the kids are learning cool biology that I could have only dreamt of at that age. The best part of the whole experience is watching a kid that is not very enthusiastic about science change his or her perspective after doing a hands-on experiment isolating DNA or looking at their own cheek cells under a microscope. The Tech is truly one of the best experiences a scientist can have in order to increase his or her communication skills, and I feel the lessons you learn at the Tech can be applied to scientific as well as non-scientific communication. Every week you receive constructive feedback on how you could improve both your written and oral communication skills, and I think this is what makes this program so successful and rewarding in the long run. Good times!
Robin Trujillo
Grad Student, Microbiology and Immunology
Chang-Zheng Chen Lab
Research interest:
Structure and function of microRNA genes
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work at the Tech Museum. It's easy to get tunnel vision in grad school, but being at the Tech was a great way to get some perspective. Every week I was reminded how important it is to communicate our science to the general public, as well as how exciting that science can be! It was a treat to see that excitement through the eyes of the kids-- I may have been bored after running my thousandth agarose gel, but they thought it was the coolest thing ever. Remembering that enthusiasm I once had was a great pick-me-up late in my graduate school career. I gained a new appreciation for how difficult it can be to explain genetics without using all the technical terms we've learned, but also how rewarding it is.

Spring & Summer 2010

Elizabeth Finn
Grad Student, Genetics
Julie Baker Lab
Research interest:
Epigenetics in Placental Development
Working at the tech museum was great fun, especially when I felt like I could make a difference. The fact of the matter is that there's only so much that you can do in the time allowed. Most kids probably forget the demonstrations as soon as they leave the table. But there was one mother who spoke to me after the demonstration. She was a single mom, an immigrant, and her daughter wanted to go into science. She was thrilled that there were people, successful young scientists, who would talk to her daughter even for a short time. I was happy that I had been able to interact with the bright kid. And I was even happier I was able to impress on the mother that she was already doing the important things: being a strong, supportive role model. There are people out there who want outreach, who want to talk to you, and working at the tech museum is a great way to meet them, and to convey some of your passion.
Cecilia Sedano
Grad Student, Genetics
Peter Sarnow Lab
Research interest:
Post-transcriptional control of gene expression by miRNAs
Volunteering at “Stanford at “The Tech” has been one of the most rewarding experiences of graduate school, I feel very lucky to have had such opportunity.Each day I spent as a volunteer The Tech was very inspiring and humbling. Communicating science to people of all ages and with various scientific backgrounds was challenging at the beginning, but I really enjoyed having the opportunity to teach them something new about genes, DNA, or just about science in general. Writing for the lay public for the “Ask a Geneticist” website and translating the articles from English to Spanish have also taught me a lot about science writing and helped me improve my ability to effectively communicate complex scientific concepts not only in person but also in writing. I had a wonderful time at The Tech and I am very thankful to Barry for this opportunity. This experience has reminded me of the responsibility we have as scientists to communicate our work to the public, and that it can be a lot of fun! I highly recommend it to every graduate student and post-doc in the Biosciences.
Diane Wu
Grad Student, Genetics
Andy Fire Lab
Research interest:
Post-transcriptional gene regulation
Working at the Tech made me fall in love with Science for the second time. Because science IS really cool, but you tend to forget that sometimes. There is nothing more inspiring than watching the wonder and curiosity in the children's eyes as they learn about the way their cells work, and there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you have initiated it. Communicating science to the public is a completely different challenge and experience than what you would ever get in the lab, and I highly recommend it to every scientist. It was it eye-opening to learn how the public perceives science and scientists and their knowledge of science. Moreover, I believe it improved my communication skills; if you can explain something rather technical to a group of fidgety 8-year-olds for fifteen minutes without losing their interest, then you can use these skills to engage any audience!

Fall & Winter 2011

Jan DeNofrio
Grad Student, Genetics
John Pringle Lab
Research interest: Understanding mechanisms involved in coral bleaching.
The Stanford at the Tech program exposes you to a part of science you will never see in the lab. This was my first time working with children and writing for the public. Thankfully, Barry took the time to teach me how to do both of them. It was great to learn how and why you should say something in order to communicate with people instead lecturing at them. I got a lot from the program in this sense. The skills I learned over the last six months will be invaluable for my future. I am very glad to have had this opportunity.
Hinco Gierman
Postdoc, Developmental Biology
Stuart Kim Lab
Research interest: Human Genetics of Aging
Science is useless, if you don't communicate your results! The Tech program is unlike anything you've done before: it will really hone your communication skills and teach you new ways how to tell your story. Barry is a great a mentor and you will come out a better writer and talker!
Khameeka Kitt
Postdoc, Biology
W. James Nelson Lab
Research interest:
Initiation and stabilization of epithelial cellular adhesions
Teaching science at The Tech was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as an educator. When I first started working at The Tech, I was not sure how much I would gain from the program. However, I quickly learned on my first day how rewarding and challenging it can be to explain in words what genes and cells are to 2-8th graders. As the weeks went by I learned to adapt my thinking and speech to be able to make science fun and interesting to kids of all ages. I found that dialoguing with kids was the most effective way to keep their attention and help them understand the importance of genes. Watching their faces light up when they were able to see the nuclei in their cheek cells or figuring out who committed the crime by comparing DNA bands was so rewarding. I can honestly say that I looked forward to coming to The Tech every week and running the demonstrations. I also learned so much writing answers to the Ask a Geneticist questions. By far this was the most challenging in relating genetic concepts in a simple and logical way. Not only did I learn a lot about the genetics of certain diseases or conditions, but I also learned how to communicate science effectively through writing. Overall, my time at The Tech was one of the best learning experiences I have had at Stanford. I highly recommend the program to people who enjoy learning and teaching science.

Winter & Spring 2011

Sarah Garcia
Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master’s Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest:
Presentation of genomic information to patients.
Volunteering at the Tech museum gives you a whole new perspective on science. Talking to the public, especially the children, forces you to break down complex scientific ideas into small, simple talking points that can be easily digested. Communicating these ideas allows you to think critically about what information is the most important and gives you a new sense of how all the basic pieces fit together. Interacting with the wide range of visitors to the Tech museum challenges you to think about science in new and different ways and gives you insight into how the public thinks about genetics. The public's genuine interest and enthusiasm will reenergize your own passion for genetics and give you the confidence to engage with people outside of your scientific community about your own work.
Carrie Metzinger
Grad Student, Biology
Dominique Bergmann Lab
Research interest:
Plant Cell Fate and Pattern
Working at the Tech Museum is awesome for so many reasons. Of course it is a great opportunity to educate the public in science ("There's DNA in all food and there's no reason to be scared of it!") and simultaneously refuel your own passion for the subject. It is also a great opportunity for grad students and post docs to work on their science communication skills. If you can explain something to a 5th grader who is swiveling around on her stool, you can explain it to anyone. But you don't realize how much of an impact just meeting a scientist can make until you work at the Tech. When I finally convinced one skeptical kid that I was a "real-life scientist", he exclaimed, "That's so cool! I never met a scientist before. I want to be a scientist when I grow up!" True story. I also didn't realize how many adults I would interact with at the Tech. The field trip chaperones linger with questions after their groups have finished the activity. A curious museum security guard listens in on a demonstration and pipes up with a question or two. For me, one of the most inspiring aspects of my time at the Tech was watching a dialogue unfold between the public and the scientist. I was amazed at their curiosity and willingness to put themselves out there and ask questions. It required that they trust me to meet them halfway with an answer they could understand. It made me hopeful that someday we could scale this dialogue up, to a national level between the curious public and accessible scientists.
Reana Tischler
Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master’s Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest:
Genetic counseling and prenatal diagnosis
Working at the Tech is a great way to gain confidence in explaining science to the public. You get the chance to explain science in a conversational manner and answer questions along the way. I think this type of practice ultimately makes people better public speakers. The enthusiasm of the kids is contagious and it is a fantastic escape from the stresses of grad school life!
Kim Vande
Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master’s Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest:
Genetic Counseling-Access and Utilization
Working at The Tech was a truly fun and educational experience. As a student in genetic counseling, we are often faced with the challenge of providing genetic information to people of various ages, educational levels, and backgrounds. While at The Tech, I could take what I had learned as a genetic counselor and broaden this to a wider group of people, especially children. How can tons of kids who are excited about learning science not immediately brighten your day?! The line of kids waiting to do demonstrations never ceased to amaze me-and once I learned how to approach questions effectively, I realized that they all knew so much! The feedback provided as part of the program on engaging participants, using easily understandable language, and science writing was invaluable. I will surely put all of this to use in my future career, and would highly recommend The Tech to anyone who loves kids and values science education!

Spring & Summer 2011

Cecil Benitez
Grad Student, Developmental Biology
Seung Kim Lab
Research interest:
Endocrine development of the pancreas.
Volunteering at the Tech was exciting, challenging, and a worth-while experience! From having someone choke on my first day to having a broken water pipe on my last day, every experience through this program has been highly memorable. It was exciting to inform people from all ages, different educational and cultural backgrounds about various scientific concepts. This program provided me with two very important skill sets— the ability to adapt and the ability to promote learning and thinking. I learned to adapt my communication and writing styles in order to be an effective communicator not only in English but also in Spanish by translating "Ask a Geneticist" responses. By adapting effectively, I was able to disseminate scientific information that very often appears esoteric to the masses. Providing people, specifically those with limited resources, with knowledge has been extremely gratifying. It is always humbling to witness the extent of the disparities in education between different socioeconomic groups, and also to discover the lack of translated scientific and medical information online. I am grateful for my participation in this program. I walk away not only knowing that through my work, I positively contributed to closing the disparity gap, but also walk away with two universal skill sets—knowing how to better communicate and adapt.
Antonio Gomez
Grad Student, Microbiology and Immunology
Karla Kirkegaard Lab
Research interest:
Host Genetics of Salmonella infection
Volunteering at the Tech offered an invaluable opportunity to hone my science communication skills. The ability to communicate complex biological topics to people outside academia is a challenging task that requires practice. Through my experience at the Tech, I have been able to develop new strategies to more effectively communicate my work to people outside my field of expertise.
Julie Granka
Grad Student, Biology
Marc Feldman Lab
Research interest:
Inferring historical processes from genetic data
Getting involved in Stanford at the Tech was definitely one of the best decisions of my graduate career. Although I enjoyed being a Teaching Assistant in various courses at Stanford, it was truly exciting to teach science in a realm outside of academia. Until The Tech, I had few experiences where I really felt that I was teaching others about things that they would not have learned otherwise. While at The Tech, I loved having the opportunity to de-mystify DNA for non-scientists. It was always rewarding to see the look of comprehension sweep across the face of a visitor -- whether they were five, fifteen, or fifty years old. Any challenges that I faced in the program were definitely worth even just one child revealing his understanding by repeating how evolution happens. Writing answers for Ask the Geneticist questions also gave me a more complete perspective on science education, and the role of science in general, outside of academia. Going to the Tech each week and interacting with such diverse groups of people was always the highlight of my week – I will miss it!

Summer & Fall 2011

Andy Chang
Grad Student, Chemistry and Bioengineering
Christina Smolke Lab
Research interest:
Regulating gene expression with synthetic RNA devices.
Hearing a 3rd grader exclaim "That's so cool!" definitely makes your day. I love how hands-on the activities we run at the Tech are. Plus, the diversity of people we interact with contrasts with my experiences as a teaching assistant. Working with kids and their parents at the Tech, high school students during trips to Overfelt High School in San Jose, and the 21+ crowd at the Tech's After Hours events made me much more comfortable explaining scientific concepts to all ages and backgrounds. Finding ways to keep an audience engaged and discover each of their inner scientists was a fun and rewarding experience! I also think it's incredibly important for scientists to communicate the impact and relevance of scientific research to the general public. Many people haven't had the chance to interact one-on-one with a scientist before, and many scientists don't regularly have opportunities to talk directly with the public. Stanford at the Tech provides a great opportunity to do so, and I would definitely recommend it to all scientists!
Lisl Esherick
Grad Student, Genetics
John Pringle Lab
Research interest:
Coral-algae symbiosis
Volunteering at The Tech was an incredibly fulfilling and edifying experience, and fun at that! Both at The Tech and at Overfelt High School, the opportunity to interact with kids and adults at all levels of education and experience broadened my understanding of the public's relationship with science, and how I can contribute to it. I learned a lot of tools and skill sets in communicating science with the public that I've since used in talking to my own friends, family and random acquaintances. It is also just a joy to take some time out of the week, to engage with people in a way that we don't often get to in the lab. I would recommend the Tech program to anyone…I think it's a hugely important complement to the rest of our graduate education.
Maggie Pearce
Postdoc, Biology
Ron R. Kopito Lab
Research interest:
Protein quality control and neurodegeneration
Working at the Tech was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as a grad student/postdoc. For the first time, I had to really learn how to explain genetics terms and ideas in a simple way so that young kids could understand. It was painfully difficult at times, but in the end, I've learned a valuable skill that I'll use for years to come. It's already easier to try to explain what it is that I do everyday to my family and friends! I really looked forward to going into the museum every week, and seeing the excitement on the kids faces reminded me of why I love science so much. And once I got going on writing answers to the online questions and articles about genetics in the News, I found that it was difficult to put them down. My time at the Tech was everything I hoped it would be and more – an opportunity to do something helpful for the public and see the results in real-time, and a chance to benefit from the experience myself!

Fall 2011 & Winter 2012

Grad Student, Chemical Engineering
Alex Dunn Lab
Research interest:
Single molecule collagen force proteolysis
Volunteering at the Tech Museum was a unique experience for me. It really showed how tasks that we perceive to be trivial can actually be a challenge. The communication skills that I acquired while working at The Tech were at the opposite spectrum of what I have learned as a grad student. I firmly believe that children are the future of science, and I found out that it can be harder to communicate science to them, than to a scientist. Working with children and high school students and seeing them enthusiastic about science was the most rewarding part of my time at The Tech.
Grad Student, Genetics
Karla Kirkegaard Lab
Research interest:
Preventing drug-resistance in viruses
Working at the Tech was a weekly reminder that it's not just scientist who think science is awesome. Whether we were in the museum or teaching at high schools, it was fun to see that most people can't help but get excited when they see their own cheek cells up close or extract gloppy strands of DNA from a hunk of cow meat. Working at the Tech showed me that kids have an innate interest in, and a surprising amount of intuition about science so it's worth it to take the time to communicate it to them. It's even better when you hear the parents mutter an impressed "whoa, that's cool" under their breath, too!
Postdoc, Molecular & Cellular Physiology
Maxence Nachury Lab
Research interest: Protein trafficking to primary cilia
Working at the Tech museum has been the highlight of my postdoc.  Helping kids get excited about science has been a great reminder of why I love science so much.  I joined the Stanford at the Tech program because I am interested in pursuing science education professionally.  However, the training Barry gave us is applicable to anyone who is trying to explain their research at a cocktail party or to their grandmother.  The wide range of experiences I got was great, from going to Overfelt High School, working with 5-15 year olds at the museum, explaining my research to their parents, teaching lab classes, and writing for the website.  I highly recommend the program to everyone!

Winter & Spring 2012

Amy Johnson
Grad Student, Biology
Skotheim Lab
Research interest: Mammalian Cell Cycle Control
Working at the Tech was definitely one of the highlights of grad school! I absolutely loved this opportunity to step back from research and improve my science communication skills. Doing experiments with kids was my favorite part, and I also enjoyed the invaluable chance to sharpen my writing. I really liked seeing both kids and adults get so excited about an experiment that they couldn't help but grab a friend or family member and bring them over to do it with them. I'd fully recommend this program to any graduate student or postdoc looking to rekindle their love for science while developing valuable skills.
Jessica Profato
Grad Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest: Personalized medicine and cancer genetics
Working at the Tech was an educational and rewarding experience! It was very fun working with the children and getting to see how fast they are able to learn many difficult concepts! It was fantastic to hear children get excited about science and to see them start to understand things like why our genes are important! My favorite moments were when children would announce that they wanted to be a scientist some day because I felt like I was inspiring students to continue learning about science, even after they leave the Tech. This experience also taught me that many "science experts" can take the "basics" of science and genetics for granted, and it was a great reminder that these concepts are challenging to learn at first and are even more challenging to teach! It is important for individuals who work in science to spend some time learning how to communicate science to the public, so that more people are able to learn about scientific topics that are becoming more and more important over time.
Nadine Rayes
Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest: Genetic Counseling and Huntington Disease Genetic Testing Practices
The time I spent at the Tech served as a way of detaching myself from the stress and chaos of graduate school to simply have some fun with children visiting the Museum. Working at the Tech has not only been a fun and rewarding experience, it has also complemented my genetic counseling training at Stanford by strengthening my communication skills. I loved having the opportunity to come up with new ways to explain genetics to the kids and answer questions about genetics from the general public. The best part of running the experiments at the Tech was watching the kids be amazed by science and listening to the ways in which they use their intuition and their own sense of logic to string pieces of information together. I am really glad that I participated in such an amazing program and I would highly recommend Stanford at the Tech to other graduate students.

Spring & Summer 2012

Mei Hsin Cheng
Grad Student, Genetics
Lipsick Lab
Research interest: Epigenetic Regulation in Drosophila
Stanford at the Tech is a great program and I highly recommend it to everyone who is interested in teaching or communicating science to the public. It's a lot of fun working at a science museum and you get to learn a tremendous amount. I enjoyed taking a step back from my research and seeing where we as scientists fit into the bigger picture.
Katie Sharp
Grad Student, Genetics
Axelrod Lab
Research interest: Development and the Alignment of Cells within Epithelial Sheets
I absolutely loved my time at The Tech Museum. Not only did I gain experience explaining science to a diverse audience, but it's a great break from daily life in the lab. I think that being surrounded by other scientists all day, it is easy to forget the excitement of learning about the world around you for the first time. When I would see the look of understanding in a kid's face when they get a concept for the first time, it took me back to my early visits to science museums. I'm glad that I got to pass along that experience to the next generation. Finally, my experience at The Tech opened my eyes to the level of scientific understanding of non-scientists. It showed me that programs like this one are not just good, but that in fact they are essential! We, as scientists, cannot expect the public to support our work if we never stop to explain to them what we are doing and why.
Justin Smith
Grad Student, Genetics
Fraser Lab
Research interest: Gene Expression, Evolution, and Synthetic Biology
I especially liked learning how to communicate science at different levels. The Tech Museum gets many different types of visitors so I've gotten a chance to talk to young kids, parents, high school students (both at the museum and at a local high school), and even monks about science. I've also always enjoyed writing so it was fun answering genetics questions for the Tech Museum website. We get really good, specific feedback from the program and everyone comes out of the program as better communicators. I've learned how to make science seem less intimidating to people (e.g. Instead of asking if someone knows about DNA, asking if someone has heard about DNA and what they have heard about it) and how to be comfortable explaining complex topics in a clear manner. Stanford at the Tech was very rewarding and one of my favorite experiences at Stanford.

Summer & Fall 2012

Zoe Assaf
Grad Student, Genetics
Petrov Lab
Research interest: Evolution and genomics
The Stanford at the Tech program is an amazing opportunity for graduate students, and I'm really glad I took advantage of it! I got to experience two other important applications of science that you don't always get in academia - teaching and writing about biology for the public. And I was surprised at how much fun I had doing it! The challenge of trying to engage kids with genetics was incredibly rewarding, especially in those moments when you see understanding light up their faces. Overall the program was a great survey of different teaching methods, as we needed to communicate to little kids, high schoolers, adults, small groups, classrooms, as well as on paper. We also used a variety of projects during the program, so you get experience with communicating ideas through experiments and through just simple dialogue. Overall, I feel very lucky to have participated in Stanford at the Tech.
Alicia Martin
Grad Student, Genetics
Bustamante Lab
Research interest: Human ancestry and demographic history
I had an awesome experience at the Tech. Communicating science to a broad audience is a necessary skill in graduate skill and beyond, and learning to do that at many levels was extremely useful. The hands-on experience was way more fun and helped me pick up these skills faster than any technical communications class, seminar, or workshop I have attended. It was also exciting being in the spotlight with a range of levels of enthusiasm--talking with young kids who are eager to learn, teaching harder to engage teenagers at Overfelt High School, and answering Ask A Geneticist questions online were three very different forums for learning to communicate well. One of the most rewarding experiences I had during the program was seeing that "Aha!" moment when little kids would understand the concept of natural selection after only a 10 minute game.
Widya Mulyasasmita
Grad Student, Bioengineering
Heilshorn Lab
Research interest: Regenerative medicine and protein engineering
All graduate students and postdocs wishing to share and rekindle their love for science should consider volunteering at The Tech. It is hard to capture all the things I've gained at the Tech in a single paragraph. From guiding 5 year-olds through hands-on gel electrophoresis experiments, to explaining to a grandmother how DNA from one cow cell carried all the information to make the whole cow, to invoking research interest in high school students, to answering genetics questions online, the Stanford at the Tech program really gave a fresh spin to my role as a scientist. It's easy to get disenchanted with science when we don't share how relevant and important it is to the general public. I walk away from the program being more adept at communicating science to people of all ages and background, while knowing I have made a real contribution to their science education.

Fall 2012 & Winter 2013

Roberta Hannibal
Postdoc, Genetics
Baker Lab
Research interest: Placenta evolution, development and genomics
Stanford at the Tech was a great opportunity to contribute to science education while having lots of fun! At the Tech Museum, I got to explain basic, but fundamentally important, genetic concepts to all kinds of people. It was incredibly rewarding to see how excited Tech Museum visitors became while performing experiments and learning about genetics. My favorite activity was one where participants stained their own cheeks cells to see their own DNA. At the end of the activity, they even got to take a photo of their cheek cell DNA home with them. Not only did this activity teach people about their DNA, but it led to further discussion on all kinds of topics. One family decided to compare their DNA portraits in order to see if they could tell which parts of the child’s DNA came from each parent. This led to a lively discussion about the staining and analysis methods we could use to answer that question. Participating in Stanford at the Tech was a great opportunity to develop my ability to communicate science with the general public. More importantly, helping to achieve this program's goal of making biology fun and unintimidating to everybody is crucial to the future of science.
Alisa Lehman
Grad Student, Biology
Long Lab
Research interest: Nitrogen Fixation and Symbiosis
Volunteering with Stanford at the Tech has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my graduate career. I’ve been able to interact with young students, possibly being their first exposure to basic genetics concepts. It’s pretty amazing to see students grasp concepts for the first time and become excited and engaged with science. Equally important has been writing responses to Ask a Geneticist and being able to engage with a world-wide audience. I’ve gained a new perspective on teaching, and improved my writing and oral communication skills. Without this opportunity my graduate career would not be complete.
Dan Van de Mark
Grad Student, Biology
Stearns Lab
Research interest: Centrosome and Cilia Biology
The Stanford at the Tech program has been an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile experience. I'd highly recommend it to all Bioscience grad students, as there is something for everyone to get out of it. It has also been a lot of fun! I've had other teaching opportunities as a T.A. in grad school. And although I enjoyed those experiences, I feel like I've learned a lot more about how to be a teacher from my time at the Tech. Teaching the same short lessons multiple times allowed me to really figure out what works and what doesn't work--and to figure out how to tailor the same basic information to people with different ages or backgrounds. It's been the best experience I have ever had in terms of preparing me to communicate science to the general public. And it has been great to get instant feedback from week to week in the form of a kid's facial expressions clearly indicating that they've just understood the point of a lesson, or to see them get excited when they see a photograph of their own cheek cells, or to hear a high school student tell you that learning how to use DNA to solve crimes has been the best part of their day. On top of all of that, the 'Ask a Geneticist' posts have given me my first real experience at writing about science for general audiences. It has been an overall fantastic experience, and I feel very grateful to have been involved with the program.

Winter & Spring 2013

Sahil Kejriwal
Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest: Impact of genetic conditions in India
Teaching kids genetics was a rewarding experience. As a graduate student on the genetic counseling program I was trained in communicating complex information about hereditary conditions and genetic testing to individuals or families affected by them. However, most of this communication is with adults; communicating genetic concepts is challenging on a whole new level! I noticed that the process of teaching genetics in an interactive way was fun for the kids and immensely gratifying to me because of the potential that it had to spur an initial interest in genetics, which in turn might put some of them on the path to becoming great scientists of the future.
Adrienne Miller
Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest: Awareness of genetic inheritance and sickle cell disease
Volunteering at the Tech Museum was a fun and unique way to improve my science communication skills. Showing demonstrations at the museum and writing answers to the “Ask A Geneticist” questions let me learn a lot about how to translate complex genetics topics into something that is interesting and understandable to a non-scientist. In the process I became much more comfortable talking to the general public about science, and better at guiding people through the logic and ideas behind the experiments we were doing. It was also satisfying to see kids (and adults!) get excited about seeing their own cheek cells under the microscope, or figuring out whether they have a taste receptor gene mutation. They were able to see how biology and genetics relates to their own lives, and came away with the impression that science is interactive and fun! I am very thankful that I was able to participate in this program and would recommend it to anyone interested in science outreach and communication.
Arielle Yablonovitchk
Grad Student, Biophysics
Li Lab
Research interest: RNA editing in Drosophila
If you love genetics, want to get good at communicating it at all levels, and like kids--you should definitely volunteer with the Stanford at the Tech program! As a graduate student training to be a genetic counselor, the experience afforded me the opportunity to improve those skills which are at the core of my field. Working with kids is a reminder that people learn many different ways, so it's only right we strive to find multiple ways to talk about genes and heredity. It's also a great feeling when you can get people excited about a topic you love!

Spring & Summer 2013

Ryan Bell
Grad Student, Genetics
Fire Lab
Research interest: RNA-mediated gene regulation and genomic engineering
 
Shifeng Xue
Grad Student, Genetics/Dev Bio
Barna Lab
Research interest: Translational regulation in vertebrate development
 
Nora Yucel
Grad Student, Genetics
Blau Lab
Research interest: Biology of muscle generation
 

Summer & Fall 2013

Emily Crane
Grad Student, Genetics
Li Lab
Research interest: RNA editing in Drosophila
 
Glenn Markov
Grad Student, Genetics
Barna Lab
Research interest: Reprogramming and DNA Methylation
 


2003-2010 Participants

Fall 2003, Winter 2004

Dan Ginsburg
Grad Student, Genetics
Michele Calos Lab

Research interest:
Phage integrases for site-specific integration in the human genome
It was a very rewarding experience.
Being involved in many aspects of exhibit development and then actually being on the floor of the completed exhibit gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. The writing I did for The Tech Museum and the interactions I had with museum visitors led to great improvements in both my written and verbal communication skills. I was also able to help start a program on the misrepresentation of genetics in the media. I'm very excited to see that program up and running now. The whole experience made me think that this is something I might want to do in the future.
Chana Palmer
Grad Student, Genetics
Pat Brown Lab

Research interests:
Bioinformatics (microarray design) and human microbial flora
My experience at The Tech was both fun and educational.
I enjoyed the challenge of communicating science to people of all ages and backgrounds, both in person and in writing. It was a valuable experience for me because it exposed me to a type of science-related career that I knew nothing about, and in doing so helped shape my career plans. I would encourage any graduate student to try it out, for the sake of understanding how your science is perceived and understood, but feel that the experience is especially useful for those interested in exploring "alternative" careers in science.

Winter, Spring 2004

Joylette Portlock
Grad Student, Genetics
Michele Calos Lab

Research interest:
Cardiovascular gene therapy
Working at The Tech was a really great opportunity.
Among other things, it lets you: 1) Develop new opinions and get some experience in a couple of the so-called "alternative" career paths that so many scientists take after grad school, 2) Have a lot of fun talking to people besides your labmates, and 3) Contribute in a very direct way to people's understanding of scientific concepts. Also, it was really neat to create a museum program from scratch and get it to a prototyping stage with actual visitors!

Spring, Summer 2004

Sophie Candille
Grad Student, Genetics
Greg Barsh Lab

Research interest:
Genetics of pigmentation
in dogs
It was time well spent.
At The Tech I wrote science articles for The Tech's web site, I presented programs on the floor exhibit, and I started to develop a GFP purification program with another graduate student, Ky Sha. Interacting with the public was always motivating and rewarding. Kids are very interested in doing experiments and their parents often have great questions about genetics. This internship was an opportunity to explore different career options. I have always thought about the possibility of having an alternative career after my PhD i.e. not be a scientist or a professor. At The Tech I did some science writing and teaching. This experience helped me determine whether or not I enjoyed writing and teaching and whether I was any good at it.
Ky Sha
Grad Student, Biology
Johns Hopkins University
Andrew Fire Lab

Research interest:
Somatic gene silencing in C. elegans
My volunteer experience at the Genetics Exhibit has been both a fun and educational experience. It's rewarding demonstrating science to the public and being able to answer their questions. I especially enjoy visitors' faces lighting up, both kids and adults alike, when they have learned something interesting. I've learned interesting facts from the Ask a Geneticist section and new skills from the GFP purification demonstration Sophie Candille and I are trying to set up.
Eszter Vladar
Grad Student, Genetics
Tim Stearns Lab

Research interest:
Ciliated epithelial cells
I’m having a great time at The Tech!
The Genetics Exhibit is really well done and draws in tons of interested visitors. I’ve had a real positive experience interacting with people, addressing their questions and concerns about genetics. I think I’ve managed to convince quite a few that it’s not possible to clone extinct dinosaurs and eating recombinant DNA will not make one sick!

Summer, Fall 2004

Colin Davidson
Post-doc, Genetics
Joseph Lipsick Lab

Research interest:
Evolution and function of the Myb gene family
I benefited from my experience at The Tech.
I enjoyed the challenge of communicating the basic scientific principles of the different demonstrations to museum visitors. The reaction and enthusiasm of the kids was particularly rewarding. Contributing responses to the Ask a Geneticist web page provided valuable lessons in communicating scientific ideas in a simple, succinct, but engaging manner. I’ve tried to incorporate some aspects of this style of writing in subsequent grant and fellowship applications. Overall, my involvement with The Tech was extremely positive.

Fall 2004, Winter 2005

Erin Cline
Grad Student, MCP
James Nelson Lab

Research interest:
Epithelial cell polarity and protein localization
My time at The Tech was really wonderful.
Working with the kids and watching their faces light up when they see DNA right before their eyes or they find out they can load a gel just like a real scientist is very rewarding. Writing for the website was a great experience too. I enjoyed learning how to communicate science to non-scientists and I think it will help me in whatever science career lies ahead for me.
Robin Kimmel
Post-doc, Epithelial Biology
Khavari Lab

Research interest:
Genetic mechanisms of skin cancer development
Working at The Tech is a unique opportunity.
It is great to see kids getting excited about DNA and to give them a feel for what geneticists do. Writing for the website gave me a chance to learn about a broad range of topics in current research. It was challenging and rewarding to write articles intended for nonscientists. There aren’t many chances while doing grad school and a post-doc to get that kind of writing experience.
Flo Pauli
Grad Student, Genetics
Stuart Kim Lab

Research interest:
Tissue-specific gene expression in C. elegans
My experience at The Tech was a lot of fun!
I had a great time interacting with museum visitors and staff. It was a very good opportunity to learn to communicate science to the public by speaking to museum visitors and writing articles for the website. I also had the chance to teach a class about DNA and human traits to 5th-8th grade students. Overall the experience was eye opening and very rewarding. Working at The Tech reinforced my belief that even if we don't take alternate career paths, we have a great responsibility to educate the public about the impact of science, and especially genetics, on their lives.
Mike Cherry
Associate Professor, Genetics
Mike Cherry Lab

Research interest:
Genome databases
 

Winter 2005

Karen Fitch
Postdoc, Genetics
Greg Barsh Lab

Research interest:
Genetics of skin development and pigmentation in the mouse
Get out of the lab into the real world!
I really enjoyed going to The Tech and interacting with people who don’t necessarily think about science every day. It’s interesting to learn what people find fascinating. I was mostly involved with demonstrations about agarose gel running and how to make DNA from cow thymus. The fourth graders loved that they got to take home their mini science projects at the end of the demonstration. The best part was being able to leave my isolated lab bench for a few hours and interact with a wide variety of people who want to learn about genetics and DNA. As post-docs and graduate students, we are not given a lot of opportunities to do non-bench science, so I encourage everyone to use it as a way to get a broader training experience. This is true both for writing as well as for public speaking and teaching.

Winter, Spring 2005

Anne Tecklenberg Strehlow
Grad Student, Genetics
Rick Myers Lab

Research interests:
Genetics of Huntington Disease
Working at The Tech is a welcome break from your daily routine!
I enjoyed my experience at the Tech on many levels. Watching children, teachers, and parents take an interest in science is energizing. It also gives you real perspective on where the general public stands in terms of understanding the field of genetics. The Tech's genetics exhibit is making a great contribution towards increasing awareness by making DNA fun and accessible. Working at the Tech is also great for graduate students and post-docs considering careers paths outside of bench science and academia, such as science writing, curriculum development, teaching, community education, and of course, science museum-related jobs. My favorite aspect of the internship was writing for the Ask the Geneticist on-line exhibit. I actually learned a lot myself about several interesting topics while researching the answers.

Spring, Summer 2005

Rama Balakrishnan
Scientific Curator
Saccharomyces Genome Database

Research interest:
Genomics, Databases and Protein Chemistry
My experience at The Tech was very rewarding and fun.
The opportunity to talk to kids and adults of different ages about DNA, about science in general was very rewarding. This experience made me realize the disconnect that exists between researchers in the lab and the people outside and the great need to communicate science to the public and get kids and adults alike interested in science. I really enjoyed writing the articles for the Ask a Geneticist column as it allowed me to research and acquaint myself on some interesting topics. Writing and teaching science to kids challenged me at various levels and I encourage students and post-docs to give this a try.
Vashi Patel
Grad Student, Biological Sciences
Tim Stearns Lab

Research interests:
Characterization of the human gamma-tubulin complex
My experience at The Tech was amazing.
I went in thinking that I would be able to teach a lot of people about how wonderful genetics is but came out learning a lot myself. It gave me the opportunity to communicate, really communicate to others about important issues related to scientific research. The exhibit focuses on genetics, but this is just a portal through which the people who come through are able to talk about all kinds of scientific issues that they are faced with today. I met with people who came from all over the world and had the wonderful opportunity to see their eyes become wide with amazement when they learned more about themselves through the exhibits that we have at The Tech. Part of being a good scientist is having the ability to effectively communicate to others and I believe that this experience at The Tech has made me more capable of doing that.
Cheryl Chow
Research Assistant, Genetics
Luca Cavalli-Sforza Lab

Research interests:
Genetic diversity of the Y Chromosome and ancient human migration
Working with visitors from around the Bay Area every week always brightened my Wednesdays.
I enjoyed explaining DNA and other genetics terms, and seeing that "look" of understanding and the realization that they could do science. But more importantly, I learned firsthand about the process of exhibition design and development (an area typically unavailable to most museum volunteers!). As someone interested in a museum career, this program offered an unusual opportunity - one that I happily took advantage of - to create a new element of the genetics exhibit and prototype new hands-on programs. To sum it all up, I wish I could stay longer and this program is great if you are considering a career outside of the lab and/or want to get involved with museums and the local community.

Summer, Fall 2005

Simone Marticke
Grad Student, Genetics
Rick Myers Lab

Research interests:
Global Mechanisms of Transcription in Mammalian Cells
A very rewarding learning experience
Before working at The Tech, I didn’t have many chances to learn how to talk about science with the lay public. During the course of a typical day on the museum floor, I worked with a diverse range of visitors ranging from 6 years old to adults. This was a great experience, because I often had to switch gears quite quickly from one group of visitors to another. It was also a great opportunity to learn to gage a visitor’s familiarity of scientific concepts in a few minutes after meeting them, so that I could tailor an exhibit to their level of understanding and hopefully let them walk away knowing something more. Writing for the Ask a Geneticist column was also an enriching experience, both because I learned more about scientific writing for a lay audience, and because I researched and read about topics that were completely unrelated to my thesis topic, so that with each article I wrote, my own horizons were broadened as well.
Sarah Pierce
Grad Student, Genetics
Ron Davis Lab

Research interests:
Yeast functional genomics
Working with the kids (and parents!) at The Tech Museum was a blast.
It was great spending time talking to non-scientists. They learned about genetics while I learned a lot about how the general public views science. I was often surprised by the issues people cared the most about. Leading the demonstrations made me nervous at first because I have always been shy about public speaking, but it paid off big time by helping me get used to talking in front of a crowd.

Learning how to write for non-scientists may sound like a specialized skill, but my scientific writing has benefited a lot from the tricks I learned for making articles clear and readable. I would recommend this experience for anyone. Of course it's a great opportunity for people who are considering alternative careers, but it is also great for those of us who aren't, since we probably need time away from the ivory tower the most.

Fall 2005, Winter 2006

Eric Churchill
Postdoc, Molecular Pharmacology
Daria Mochly-Rosen Lab

Research interest:
Proteomic approaches to the treatment of cardiovascular disease
What an awesome time at The Tech.
My time at The Tech was invaluable in forming my career. It showed me that teaching children is a viable option. My time spent doing experiments with kids that came through the museum made me realize that getting them interested in science may be more important than any discovery I might make in the lab. Educating children at this age can help grow the scientific community at an exponential rate. Seeing kids understand and get excited about the experiments I did with them was very rewarding. I hope to be a part of something like the genetics exhibit at The Tech throughout my career.
Kim Matulef
Postdoc, Molecular and Cellular Physiology
Merritt Maduke Lab

Research interest:
Chloride ion channels and transporters
Working at The Tech has been a very rewarding experience.
I greatly enjoyed learning to tailor each demonstration to the appropriate age level and seeing the kids’ excitement with science. Writing for the web site has helped me to communicate more clearly and given me an excuse to learn about science outside of my immediate field. It has also made me realize the obligation that we have as scientists to explain science to the public in an understandable manner. This past quarter, I have additionally had the opportunity to test a forthcoming exhibit for the museum. I have greatly enjoyed this challenge, and it has also given me an appreciation for the work that goes into exhibit design. I am sorry to see my time in this program ending, and I hope to continue to make scientific community outreach an important part of my life.
Natasha Miley
Grad Student, Developmental Biology
Anne Villeneuve Lab

Research interest:
Chromosome pairing in C. elegans meiosis
The The Tech program is awesome.
This program is great because you get experience in different ways to communicate science to people with a wide range of educational backgrounds. You can teach large or small groups, write for the Ask a Geneticist page, go behind the scenes of exhibit design, or come up with your own new thing that you want to try. The ability to explore different approaches is a fantastic opportunity to make an informed decision about what appeals to you most as a science educator.

Winter, Spring 2006

Aaron Shafer
Postdoc, Molecular and Cellular Physiology
Brian Kobilka Lab

Research interest:
Activation mechanism of G protein-coupled receptors
My experience as a volunteer for The Tech Museum was a wonderful one.
Never have I had a chance to work with such a diversity of children coming from many places around Northern California. Some of the kids traveled to the museum from towns as far away as Yosemite. Wow! Talk about commuting at a young age- but for them the trip was well worth it. The kids’ enthusiasm was a great reminder of taking in the wonders of nature and remembering why I went into a science career as a research scientist. Walking kids through the wet lab experiments was like fishing. The best part was when you know you hooked their curiosity because they actually understood what you’re talking about. Sometimes that was a real challenge as the attention spans varied greatly depending on whether they were first graders or high schoolers. Amazingly the little ones seemed to do quite fine. All in all, I would highly recommend this experience to any scientist with a remote interest in getting a taste of what’s like to be a teacher and ambassador for science.
David Tran
Postdoc, Biological Sciences
Bruce Baker Lab

Research interest:
Neurobiology of Drosophila courtship behavior
I enjoyed my experiences at The Tech.
It was a welcome break from research because I could interact with a wide variety of people. It was always worth it to see the eyes of kids light up when they realize the have the right answer or see the answer to some puzzle. Sometimes it’s adults too who still have that spark of wonderment. On a personal level I learned a lot from trying to transform complex scientific principles into easy to approach and understand lessons and examples. I believe that it is always a good thing to get scientists out of the cocoon of research and interact with and reach out to the public.

Spring, Summer 2006

Natalie Dye
Graduate Student, Biochemistry
Julie Theriot Lab

Research interest:
Bacterial cytoskeletal proteins
My experience at The Tech was both challenging and rewarding.
Working with the kids in the exhibit actually reminded me of why I got into science. The experiments are really fun, and the demonstration almost feels like a little magic show. Plus, I found it very interesting to see what the general public knows about genetics and science in general. And being able to teach them even the most basic things that we know was really enjoyable. I’d say that the experience is worthwhile for any student or postdoc, no matter what career path is in his/her future.
David Skibbe
Postdoc, Biological Sciences
Virginia Walbot Lab

Research interest:
Maize molecular genetics
My experience at The Tech was phenomenal!
Volunteering at The Tech was a great experience. The most fulfilling part for me was learning how to explain complex scientific questions to general audiences. While the “Ask a Geneticist” component was challenging, it provided me with the opportunity to teach my non-science friends and family more about cool scientific topics. Above all, I was proud to be a part of a program (and a vision) that stimulates young minds by sharing an enthusiasm for science.

Summer, Fall 2006

Bronwyn MacInnis
Postdoctoral Fellow, Molecular and Cellular Physiology
Miriam Goodman Lab

Research interest:
Genetics of Behavior, Learning, and Memory
Working at The Tech was both more fun and more challenging than I expected.
I came to The Tech with the assumption that communicating scientific concepts to youth and lay audiences would be easy – just use simple words. But I quickly learned that there is a fine balance between ‘keeping it simple’ and losing all content and meaning. I improved my science communication skills by learning the power of a good analogy (thanks Barry!) and how to guide visitors through the exhibits at a level that was interesting and meaningful to each individual. It was rewarding to see people really get what you were teaching them, and to stimulate their interest in genetics and science in general.
Devasena Gnanashanmugam
Fellow, Pediatric Infectious Diseases
Yvonne Maldonado Lab

Research interest:
Oral Polio Vaccine
So glad I did it!
Working at The Tech was a completely rewarding experience. It was great to bring a little science directly into the community. The best was witnessing the "that's so cool!" moments from the kids. I also benefited by learning some genetics myself, and learning to write science for children. It was also great to be a part of launching a new exhibit, cheek cell staining.

Fall 2006, Winter 2007

Leremy Colf
Graduate Student, Biochemistry
Chris Garcia Lab

Research interest:
The Structural Basis of Alloreactivity
The best part of being at The Tech was seeing how excited museum visitors get about science.
Science is really cool, but sometimes I do the same thing so often that I forget just how exciting it can be. Teaching kids about proteins and DNA makes me remember what a great job I have! This excitement about teaching and learning transitions to training the new volunteers as well. It was great to see the changes in teaching style and interaction as new participants in the program discovered their own styles and really made the floor experiments their own. Because of my experiences at The Tech, I feel much more confident and capable in explaining my own research to others.

Winter, Spring 2007

Azita Alizadeh
Postdoc, Genetics
Greg Barsh Lab

Research interest:
Genetics of pigmentation of cats and hamsters
Stanford at The Tech program is a multi-faceted and a unique program.
Volunteering at The Tech was a wonderful and helpful experience for me for several reasons. This program enabled me to explain science to the public both in person and in writing and I believe that makes it a very unique and special program. I wrote several science articles that allowed me to research and learn about a new subject each time. Writing these science articles for the general public was a very rewarding and enjoyable experience for me and taught me to write about science in a simple way. Doing the programs about DNA extraction, protein purification, and DNA analysis using gel electrophoresis gave me the opportunity to interact and communicate with people of all ages and taught me to explain science in a fun and interesting way. I also had the chance to teach a class about DNA and human traits to 5th-7th grade students. I had a great experience at The Tech and I highly recommend it to both postdocs and graduate students at Stanford. Ultimately none of these opportunities would have been possible without Barry so I would like to thank Barry for being a great mentor to me.
Amy Radermacher
Grad student, Immunology
Jerry Crabtree Lab

Research interest:
The development of the immune system
Every scientist should have an experience similar to The Tech.
I learned so much while at The Tech. As scientists, we tend to get immersed in our very complicated, jargon filled world. Teaching at The Tech really helped me step back from that and be able to explain science to the public. Kids are a great learning ground for this because they're so responsive and filled with so much enthusiasm. In addition, the writing I did for the Understanding Genetics website was invaluable to wrapping my head around how to teach science. Because of my time at The Tech, I'm seriously considering making science writing a much larger part of my future career.
Shalu Srinivasan
Post-doc, Biological Sciences
Susan K. McConnell Lab

Research interest:
Understanding the role of polarity in neural progenitor cell fate determination
Volunteering at The Tech exposed me to a new teaching and learning environment that an academic institution does not provide.
Here, I not only learnt to explain science to non-scientists but also to get young brains very excited about the scientific process. To see young children's eyes light up when they saw their own cheek cells for the first time or when they carefully stashed away their little eppendorf tube with green fluorescent protein was the best reward I could get from this program. Interestingly, I also learnt how hard it is to write about scientific issues in a non-scientific, yet engaging manner. When I researched to answer questions that were posted by visitors to The Tech, I too learnt a lot about topics that were relatively new to me. In short, I would strongly encourage other students to avail themselves of this wonderful opportunity and learn more about science and themselves in the process!

Spring, Summer 2007

Dasha Glazer
Grad Student, Genetics
Russ Altman Lab

Research interest:
Protein Dynamics
My experience at the museum was positive and challenging.
I think that it is important for the scientific community to interact with general public and present their findings in simple terms. The internship program at The Tech provides a unique opportunity for students to see the scientific world from the perspective of those who are less involved in it, if at all, and gain skills to communicate scientific ideas and experiments outside of Stanford. The program's flexibility provides every participant many opportunities to contribute ideas as to what the program has to offer now and what it will become in the future. As part of this program, I helped adults and children of all ages perform experiments that introduced them to DNA, genes, proteins, cells, forensics and medicine. I also helped develop a new experiment that teaches about components of tasting, genes and taste buds. It was rewarding to see happy and interested faces of the museum visitors as they mastered complicated and elegant methods and ideas that biologists face on a daily basis. The length of the program was just right to become comfortable with relating scientific ideas to the general public and to develop an interest in pursuing similar types of volunteer work in the future.
Monica Rodriguez
Grad Student, Genetics
Bruce Baker Lab

Research interest:
Drosophila sex determination
Such a rewarding experience!
I had so much fun working at The Tech and learned a lot in the process. Watching children and parents take a real interest in science and come away with a better understanding of genetics is energizing and rewarding. I loved the challenge of explaining scientific concepts to people of all ages and backgrounds. The writing I did for the museum has definitely improved by ability to effectively communicate scientific ideas in a simple, succinct, and engaging manner. This experience has also given me an insight on just how much the general public understands about science and the issues they find most fascinating.

Summer, Fall 2007

Nanibaa' Garrison
Grad Student, Genetics
Greg Barsh Lab

Research interest:
Genetics of human pigmentation
The best part of working at The Tech was watching kids’ eyes light up when they get excited about science.
The kids were the ones who reminded me of why I pursued science in the first place. While some kids left inspired to become a scientist and cure cancer, other kids left with a shy smile after solving a simple genetics mystery. The energy and curiosity the kids brought was invigorating! During my Tech experience, I also discovered an interest in writing genetics articles for the public. By use of analogies, and with Barry’s help, I was able to break down complex genetics concepts into simpler, more meaningful ideas. This whole experience was very rewarding and a ton of fun.
Lucy Southworth
Grad Student, Genetics
Stuart Kim Lab

Research interest:
Gene expression changes in mammalian aging
Ruth Tennen
Grad Student, Cancer Biology
Steve Artandi Lab

Research interest:
Telomerase regulation in cancer and stem cells
Working at The Tech for two quarters was the most amazing experience I’ve had in grad school!
When experiments weren’t working in lab, I knew that I’d get to spend every Friday morning with a bunch of super enthusiastic kids (and adults) who couldn’t wait to get their hands on a pipette. The ultimate reward? Hearing the kids explain to their parents and teachers that they were learning how to make medicine in bacteria, or helping solve a crime using DNA evidence, or staining their cheek cells and looking at the nucleus—things that I didn’t learn about until college. I loved answering all sorts of creative Ask-a-Geneticist questions, from the genetics of Tourette Syndrome to the existence of human chimeras to why people sneeze when they look into the sun. And writing Genetics in the News articles was an incredible experience—with Barry’s help, we were able to transform complicated, jargon-filled scientific articles into super exciting stories that (we hope!) will make people excited about scientific research. And although our main goal at the Tech was to spark kids’ (and adults’) enthusiasm and understanding of science, the past two quarters have re-inspired me to make teaching and writing about science a huge part of my future.

Fall 2007, Winter 2008

Colleen Brady
Grad Student, Cancer Biology
Laura Attardi Lab

Research interest:
Transactivation-deficient p53 Mutants
I always loved science museums as a kid, but I never had the chance to experience a museum quite like The Tech. I would have loved it there!
My experience at The Tech truly added a new element to my graduate career. The program taught me valuable communication skills in an entirely different way than TAing a Stanford course would. I learned so much by interacting with museum visitors and leading them through fun and engaging scientific experiments. By working with people outside of academia, I had to learn how to break down complicated concepts into easy-to-understand pieces. The best part was teaching elementary school students about DNA, proteins, and cells—things that I never learned about until college! The kids really understood the science, too. Every time someone walked away from the exhibit with a smiling face, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Katie Cunningham
Grad Student, Biological Sciences
Bill Burkholder Lab

Research interest:
Structure and function of a bacterial cell-cycle checkpoint
Working at The Tech was a fantastic opportunity to teach the public about science!
The Tech exhibits provide a great, hands-on way to teach and think about science, and the experience is a unique way for graduate students to get involved in the community. I learned a lot about human genetics by answering the Ask a Geneticist questions. Helping out each week on the museum floor and writing about science really improved my ability to describe science in ways that are easy to understand. One of the neatest aspects of working at The Tech was contributing to the museum by helping to design a new exhibit. My Tech experience was also a great reminder of the responsibility that we have as scientists to educate the public about what we do.

Winter & Spring 2008

Jason Hoyt
Grad Student, Genetics
Michele Calos Lab

Research interest:
Adult stem cell therapy
Teaching at The Tech was the best "communications course" I have taken.
Trying to get a set of genetics concepts across to a group of 5th-12th graders is about the most difficult thing you could do. Even coming half-way to mastering that skill has set me up for successful interactions with non-scientists for the future. I am not always going to be in the lab with people who "speak the same language" as me, so learning how to concisely and clearly explain science was something very important to me before graduating. More importantly, I was often teaching to disadvantaged children in poor school districts, sometimes with non-existent science programs. Opening a door for them into science has been just as significant as any research that I have done.

Yuya Kobayashi
Grad Student, Genetics
Rick Myers Lab

Research interest:
Genetics of variation in drug response
I'd do it again, if there weren't so many others who want to try it!
On the first day at the museum, one of the other students made the comment, "I can't believe it's already been two quarters!" I wondered whether my experience at The Tech would be similar. I can say now that it most certainly was. From running museum floor programs to teaching at a summer science camp, I was able to show to so many different people, a glimpse of the exciting world of genetics. Whether they were 6 or 60 years old, everyone seemed to be having fun learning about science. And in turn, I was excited watching them be excited about the work we do. When a program with such small time commitment over such a short period of time can accomplish all that, you know you have something worthwhile. This has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my graduate career so far and I would recommend this to just about everyone!
Jennifer Shieh
Grad Student, Neuroscience
Susan K. McConnell Lab

Research interest:
Adhesion and endocytosis in neuronal migration
Working at The Tech has been one of the best experiences of graduate school!
Every scientist should be so lucky to have the opportunity to actually see the awe and wonder that reminds us of why we love science. Being exposed to the big questions that comes from creative curiosity is a great way to get pulled out of the minutiae of experiments. Those questions are an eye-opener to how critical it is that scientists be involved in dialogue with the public. Helping people improve their science literacy and understand the importance of research is essential for an enlightened society (and for us to keep getting funded). It certainly wasn't a one-way education road though. I learned even more than the visitors that came to the museum or read the Ask a Geneticist answers. In addition to the ongoing training of communicating complex scientific ideas to a broad audience, I've learned a lot more about genetics (reading the answers myself!), discovered what sweetbread is and purified my first protein. The Stanford at the Tech program has been fun, rewarding and incredibly challenging. The only problem is that it's addictive!

Spring & Summer 2008

Jackie Benjamin
Grad Student, Cancer Biology
James Nelson Lab

Research interest:
Cell-cell adhesion and membrane dynamics
The Tech is a unique educational experience- both for the visitors AND the volunteers!
I didn’t fully realize just how educational volunteering at The Tech would be for me. I’ve had lots of previous experience tutoring high-school students but I’d never worked with younger students before. That all changed while volunteering at The Tech where the majority of the students we interact with are in middle school. Running our hands-on demonstrations each week challenged me to explain science to kids AND make it super interesting. Although it was difficult at first, as the weeks went by I saw how much more comfortable I became engaging the younger students. In addition to weekly demonstrations, answering questions online helped me improve my science writing while teaching me a lot about very diverse and interesting topics. But my favorite part about the experience was the few weeks when we went off-site and ran our demonstrations at Overfelt high school in San Jose. From freshman to seniors, it was a unique experience modifying my interaction with older students while still keeping it interesting and fun.
Jose Morillo
Grad Student, Developmental Biology
Margaret Fuller Lab

Research interest:
Epigenetics of stem cell identity and function
The two quarters I spent at the Tech was by far one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had while in graduate school.
The rewards were immediate. Personally, I saw myself become interested in science in a whole new way. It’s very encouraging to see kids and adults alike become engaged in topics I found so basic that my interest in them had disappeared. While in the lab, I felt like I was diving deeper and deeper into a very specific topic and forgot to come up for air and look at the big picture from time to time. The Tech allowed me to do this while reigniting that creative spark I lost long ago.
There is also nothing more rewarding than seeing an entire family; kids, parents and grandparents, learn about such important topics as genetics and molecular biology. And most importantly, it is gratifying to know that the 10-15 min they spent listening to us and performing experiments have enriched their lives in ways they didn’t imagine. You know you’re making a difference when people ask questions, and when the answers lead to other questions and ultimately, through the programs at The Tech, people get a better understanding and appreciation for science.
Working at The Tech also allowed me to get out of lab and do something that had an immediate and direct impact in society. As scientists, we are using a large amount of resources to make discoveries. Yet, the public still does not comprehend why we do what we do and, as a result, support for science is eroding. I strongly believe that as scientists we have the responsibility to educate the public about the importance of our work. The Stanford at The Tech program provided me with the opportunity to assume such responsibility.
I feel that my experience at The Tech was much more fun and much more rewarding and intellectually challenging than lab work. I hope this program and other programs like this become more widespread. It is our responsibility to ensure that this happens.

Summer & Fall 2008

George Wang
Grad Student, Biological Sciences
Kang Shen Lab

Research interest:
Nervous System Development
After a morning at the Tech, I always had a good feeling whether it was teaching what seemed like hundreds of visitors about PTC or just talking to Barry about science education on a slow day. This program is a great chance to improve your writing skills and to learn how to engage visitors of all ages with the experiments at the Tech. One of the best parts is during your second quarter when you have a chance to create something new for the program. I also had fun meeting the other similar-minded Stanford at the Tech participants through training sessions and trips to Overfelt High School. I'll miss those mornings at the Tech!
Jamie Conklin
Grad Student, Genetics
Julien Sage Lab

Research interest:
Control of embryonic stem cells
Stanford at the Tech is a great experience for the scientists that participate and the visitors of the Tech! Of course it is rewarding when you see that spark in a child's (or adult's) eye when they discover the magic of science through participation in some of our hands-on "science projects". But for me, the reward went far beyond that. Not only did I enjoy working with the visitors of the museum, but I also feel that I myself learned more than I had ever imagined- through answering the "Ask a Geneticist" questions, writing a Genetics in the News article, figuring out how to make science easier to understand, or just answering questions generated from our programs. It was also an awesome feeling when, for my final project, I got to work with a few San Jose high school classes to develop a program where they used actual DNA samples to solve a mock murder case and to free an innocent man from jail! This program further intensified my passion for science outreach programs and gave me some of the tools needed to better present science to the general public.
Sandeep Ravindran
Grad Student, Microbiology & Immunology
John Boothroyd Lab

Research interest:
Protein secretion mechanisms of the parasite Toxoplasma
Stanford at the Tech was one of the most fun things I've done in graduate school. It was a really challenging and rewarding experience to get a chance to convey basic concepts of biology to the public. It was great to be able to reach such a wide age-group of kids, and see how excited they got. Working in lab I take a lot of what I do for granted, and seeing the way the kids got excited reminded me about what excited me about biology in the first place. I became so much more confident at public speaking, and improved my ability to communicate to the public both verbally and through writing for the 'Ask a Geneticist' website. It was informative to interact directly with the public. This made me realize not only how important it was to educate them, but also to learn from the way the program was setup to see the things that worked best to do this.

Fall 2008 & Winter 2009

Jared Wenger
Grad Student, Genetics
Gavin Sherlock Lab

Research interest:
Yeast carbon metabolism and genome evolution
Having the opportunity to share with a kid (or adult) something that I am passionate about is a wonderful thing. The Tech provided many ways to experience this. In high school classrooms, on the museum floor, or in an Ask a Geneticist answer, I had the chance to help people understand something they didn't before. This is an amazing thing. Helping a child go from not knowing what DNA is or does, to actually purifying it and seeing it with their own eyes, all within the space of 10 or 15 minutes, was an extremely valuable experience for both me and the people with whom I interacted. Biology can often be viewed as a very dry and detached subject for kids. I really enjoyed having the chance to share my enthusiasm and excitement about it, by showing people how cool genetics is and how it is such an important and relevant subject. It was very valuable for me as a scientist as well. Learning how to communicate on an appropriate level, both in writing and speech, is an essential skill for all scientists. The Tech program definitely helped improve my ability to do this.
Julia Oh
Grad Student, Genetics
Ron Davis Lab

Research interest:
Development of genomic tools for microorganisms
The Tech is a fun and inspiring way to make scientific research public knowledge Before the Tech, I'd never had much of a chance to write for or communicate with non-scientists. I feel sorry for the people I tried to explain my research to, since I would get carried away in my jargon! Learning how to deconstruct questions and communicate with a general audience has been invaluable. I definitely think that it helped my overall mental organization for my own scientific writing and speaking. On the floor doing the demonstrations, I mostly interacted with younger children, which was incredibly fun. I also had a great time teaching high school students in a couple of the museum's lab classrooms. It was so exciting and fulfilling to get the older students (who might be closer to making career choices) enthusiastic about biology and the scientific method. I highly recommend volunteering at the Tech to anyone, especially those who would like to give some of their scientific knowledge back to the public.

Winter & Spring 2009

Dale Bodian
Research Associate, Genetics
Russ Altman Lab

Research interest:
Genotype-phenotype relationships, bioinformatics
Volunteering at the Tech was a really fun and educational experience. It was a great opportunity to interact with people outside of the university who have a different perspective on science. The contagious enthusiasm of the kids and their parents was a welcome reminder of why I decided to go into science. Barry and the previous program participants have done a great job designing experiments that the kids can learn from and have fun with too.
Mark McElwain
Grad Student, Developmental Biology
Roel Nusse Lab

Research interest:
Wnt signalling in Drosophila embryonic patterning
Volunteering at the Tech injected some much-needed excitement into my otherwise dreary grad student life. When you're spending all your time in the lab repeating experiments and getting a different result each time, it's comforting to go to the Tech and stain your cheek cells or purify GFP, and know that it's going to work! But seriously, the best parts about Stanford at the Tech are being able to do something different once a week, and being able to interact with all sorts of different people with widely varying knowledge about science. This is a great thing, not only for personal growth - I get a kick out of talking to people I wouldn't normally encounter in my day to day life - but also for thinking about science in a different way. It definitely can help you to think about your own science from a different perspective. If you're looking for a challenge that can be just as hard as experimental biology but uses a different part of your brain, the Tech program is a great experience.
Chris Franco
Grad Student, Immunology
Steve Galli Lab and Irv Weissman Lab

Research interest:
The development of the immune system
Working at The Tech was a fantastic experience. I learned a lot about how to clearly communicate complicated ideas to a lay audience. Working with groups of visiting school kids each week is a phenomenal way to really learn how to keep an an audience engaged. The skills I gained while teaching at The Teach easily translate into how to go about making my next talk or outlining a manuscript. It doesn't matter as much if you think your work is the coolest thing out there unless you can convince someone else of this too. And aside from all this seriousness, it's a total blast to do cool science experiments with the kids!
Evonne Leeper
Grad Student, Genetics
Rick Myers Lab

Research interest:
Transcriptional Regulation in Cell Type Determination
 

Spring & Summer 2009

Stacey Wirt
Grad Student, Cancer Biology
Julien Sage Lab

Research interest:
Regulation of cell cycle and differentiation in embryonic stem cells
My time at the Tech museum was the most rewarding experience of my graduate career! It's easy to get wrapped up in the daily details of experiments, lab meetings, and papers, and to forget about why it is that I came to grad school in the first place. Working with the kids at the Tech museum rekindled my enthusiasm for doing science, and it reminded me that science is about more than just running gels and doing endless PCR reactions. It can also be about understanding ourselves (like learning about cells, genes, and what DNA looks like) or about how we can improve our society (like solving a crime or making medicine). Answering "Ask a Geneticist" questions also gave me the opportunity to try out my science writing skills, and to research topics that I never would have learned about otherwise. Overall, participating in Stanford at the Tech provided me with a whole host of new challenges that I never would have experienced in the lab, and I came away from the program with better communication skills and a renewed enthusiasm for science and science education.
Mandi Hartman
Grad Student, Biochemistry
Jim Spudich Lab

Research interest:
Cell biology of Drosophila myosin VI
I've really enjoyed my time at the Tech and have learned a lot. I went into the program thinking I'd have fun working with kids, but my experience was really about much more than that. Not only did I get to teach kids about science, but also it was so rewarding to see them genuinely excited by the hands-on experiments we did. Plus, I learned so much about science writing and how to communicate ideas to the public, both of which are valuable skills to have. Working at the museum has really made me think about science in a new way, and I'm so glad I participated in the Stanford at the Tech program.
Zhaoqing (Ching) Ding
Grad Student, Neurology and Neurological Diseases
Tony Wyss-Coray Lab

Research interest:
Immune response in the nervous system
While working at The Tech, it was the highlight of my week. My favorite part of working at The Tech was communicating science to the general public and seeing their interest in science develop right in front of me. As a graduate student, tunnel vision occurs due to the tediousness of everyday science, and working at The Tech helped me rediscover the passion I have for science. This rediscovery happened every time I saw the light bulb go off in a child/teen/adult's brain when they comprehended the connection between what they were doing at the one of the many hands on science exhibits to the science behind the exhibit. I also love the flexibility that working at The Tech provided, where Barry allows you to develop your own passion. I have always been a big proponent of science and if I had it my way I would suggest everyone to be a science major! This dream however is far from reality due to the lack of awareness of science-related experiences available for kids, teens and adults. Given the shortage of awareness, my final project is to create web-based outlet in which kids, teens and adults can find information about entering the world of science. All in all, I would highly suggest working at The Tech to anyone who loves science.

Summer & Fall 2009

Feng Chen
Grad Student, Genetics
Mark Krasnow Lab

Research interest:
Development and remodeling of the trachea in fruit flies
Volunteering at the Tech was definitely an eye-opening experience. I didn't realize just how hard it was to talk about science in a way that is easy for your audience to understand and moreover, to get them excited about the topic and appreciate why what you're saying is relevant to them. The challenge of thinking up new ways to express yourself on the spot was definitely a fun experience and a good skill to practice. I was also lucky to have the experience of helping set up a genetics lesson at a local high school through which I got a sense of all the work that makes educating a classroom of students possible. All in all, volunteering at the Tech was a very enriching experience. I feel that it has much to offer for everyone, and I highly recommended it for all graduate students.
Gwen Liu
Grad Student, Microbiology & Immunology
Chang-Zheng Chen Lab

Research interest:
The structure and function of microRNA genes
Teaching at the Tech was one of the most memorable and rewarding experiences of graduate school! In lab life's doldrums, there was one bright spot to look forward to every week. This was teaching science to kids on Friday mornings. It was so refreshing to see the kids get excited when they saw strands of DNA precipitate out of solution for the first time. Or when they saw their glowing GFP purifications. It was a reminder that science makes everything possible, and how important it is to get the next generation interested and excited about science.

The Tech experience also trained me in a set of skills not readily available in graduate school- communication of science to the general public by speaking and writing. Every week, I had to stop myself from using technical jargon and find everyday words to explain things. This was probably one of the most challenging experiences I ever had. But at the end of the day, when I could get the message across, it was also one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had. I highly recommend this program to all graduate students especially those considering 'alternative' careers.

Andrew Hellman
Grad Student, Biology
Kang Shen Lab

Research interest:
Synapse Formation
Stanford at the Tech made me a better communicator and made me realize how important it is, as a scientist, to interact with the public. I learned how to better convey complex scientific ideas to the public in writing and speaking. Beyond that, I realized that most people haven't met a scientist, which makes it difficult for young people to envision themselves as researchers. Perhaps my presence wasn't enough to become a role model, but doing experiments with a real scientist at least gives children a real idea of what we do. I also appreciated learning a little bit about the problems that science education faces, especially through my experience at Overfelt High School. There are people out there who are trying really hard to figure out how to make science education better, even though it seems like a daunting task. The only problem with Stanford at The Tech is that more people can't participate in it. Every student and professor should take advantage of the invaluable opportunity of interacting with potential future scientists.

Fall 2009 & Winter 2010

Karen Colbert
Grad Student, Structural Biology
William Weis Lab

Research interest:
Molecular basis of neurotransmission
The Stanford at the Tech program is a great "big picture" reminder of why science is exciting and important. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at the Tech. It was such a pleasure to discuss basic genetics concepts with museum visitors. I appreciated the questions people asked, and their reactions to various aspects of the demos. When asked what PTC tastes like, one young girl replied "like dirty chocolate!" This experience helped me develop and hone important communication skills. I have become more effective as a speaker, a teacher, and a writer. I have also developed a keen interest in science education, which I hope to pursue professionally in the future.
Shuai Chen
Grad Student, Cancer Biology
Or Gozani Lab

Research interest:
Protein methylation and its effects
I love love loved watching the spark of inspiration and comprehension in a little kid's eyes as they learned about difficult biological concepts! Teaching Genetics at the Tech has made me realize how much fun communicating science to non-scientists really is. Seeing a child exclaim in wonder as he pulls out DNA that he extracted himself is so rewarding. The fact that we are exposing these children to complicated biological techniques and that they are getting it amazes me. I wish they had this program when I was a kid! I also feel like I learned a lot about science and communication through participating in Genetics at the Tech. I think it's a great program and a lot of fun :)
Mara Damain
Grad Student, Biology
Helen Blau Lab

Research interest:
Stem Cell Nuclear Reprogramming
Stanford at the Tech is a program where you learn how to teach science and engage the attention and curiosity of the young ones. It's a place where you get to perfect your communication and presentation skills in front of the most wonderful audience ever. The trips to Overfelt High School were equally rewarding and fun. We might not fully realize the extent that this program molds us into being better teachers and scientists. It is a unique opportunity that all graduate students should experience. This program gives you the chance to get out of the lab environment and have a direct and immediate impact on the education of others. Numerous times I had the opportunity to not only teach kids new things but also I got to teach their parents, too. It was a very interesting and exciting experience for everyone. You have nothing but to gain by participating in this program. I finished the program a few weeks ago but I will definitely continue to go the museum from time to time.


This project was supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center For Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. Its content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NCRR or NIH.

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