Science Café Initiative
Science Cafés are taking place all around the world and engaging scientists with the general public. Locations range from Brazil to Belgium, and are taking place in local coffeehouses, as well as, neighborhood pubs. These gatherings are meant for everyone to attend, not just those with a science background. By being in a familiar, informal setting, allows the audience to ask questions without feeling intimidated.
The idea of having Science Cafés available for students, at their school, is something that I thought would be a great way to engage young children and local scientists. Through the Women in Science & Engineering group, it would be possible to connect and teach students about a range of topics, such as cancer, neuroscience, and structural biology, while also promoting female scientists. Over the next few months, WiSE members will kickoff Science Cafés for students on Long Island. Ideally, my goal would be to set up Science Cafés with school districts across New York State, with a focus on targeting underprivileged areas. Every child deserves the chance to become interested in STEM and have opportunities to learn more about careers in science.
The first Science Café was hosted at Roslyn Middle School in New York. My audience was a group of 8th grade students and their science teachers. The Science Café was set up in their library and we had a “lunch & learn” seminar. A PowerPoint presentation was prepared to engage the students and included pictures and concepts complementing my talk. I focused on my undergraduate studies, the research I performed during that time, what I am currently working on, as well as, what I am planning to do in the future. This was a great way for the students to understand my career trajectory and the benefits/rewards I have by working in science. I was happy and surprised about how interested the students were and how comfortable they felt asking questions. The students were able to grasp the concepts I was explaining to them and came up with very constructive thoughts and opinions. They could not get enough and wanted to learn more about cancer research. Collectively, I found that the biggest concern of the students was why research institutions use mouse models to recapitulate cancer. They had a hard time understanding the ethical standpoint of using animals for research. However, after clarification and reasoning, they had a better understanding of why. This seminar was so rewarding and fulfilling knowing that I had a positive impact on young minds!
By having Science Cafés available to all middle schools and eventually high schools and colleges, students will be able to learn more about what it is like to be a scientist. This will give them a better understanding of research-based careers and expand upon the topics they learn in the classroom. This application-based approach will provide students with even more opportunities to succeed in the world of STEM.