Out & About: Science Day for kids returning to Dartmouth College

By LIZ SAUCHELLI

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 03-26-2023 1:35 AM

When Sam Liu was growing up, she visited academic institutions and biomedical companies that helped introduce her to all science had to offer.

“Active engagement, but also being able to speak directly with real scientists, really sparked that curiosity for me in this field and provided insight of what one could do in STEM,” Liu wrote in an email. “It was really cool hearing these scientists share what they love doing and witnessing the passion they had for their science.”

Now Liu, a second-year doctoral student in Dartmouth College’s molecular and cellular biology program, is one of four students reviving Science Day — a free event that aims to give Upper Valley fifth through 10th graders hands-on experiences in STEM topics they might not learn about otherwise.

Science Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 8, at Dartmouth’s Life Sciences Center located at 15 Dewey Field Rd., in Hanover. Registration is encouraged, but not required, at academic-outreach.dartmouth.edu/programs/science-day. All participants must be accompanied by an adult.

“With a lot of things — especially when you’re young and thinking about what to do — it could be hard to know unless you actually get a chance to see what that looks like,” Liu said in a phone interview last week. “Also being able to see scientists that students hopefully see look like them as well makes a world of a difference.”

According to a 2021 report from the National Science Foundation about the United States’ STEM workforce, women make up 35%; Hispanic workers, 15%; Asian workers, 10%; and Black workers, 9%.

There will be around 20 stations featuring hands-on activities in various STEM disciplines including life sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and computer science. The majority of the roughly 75 volunteers are graduate students and postdocs — many of whom are volunteering at the event for the first time. Science Day was last held in 2019 then put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Liu and her fellow co-organizers — molecular and cellular biology graduate students Sarah Valles, Irma Vlasac and Sarah Vandal — started sending out emails to ask for student volunteers, people were eager to participate.

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“It’s really exciting to hear that so many first-time volunteers were equally excited about this event we’ve heard about but never took part in,” Liu said.

Science Day also provides an opportunity for graduate students to sharpen their teaching skills and share what they’re passionate about with a new audience.

“I am most looking forward to seeing the interactions between the graduate students leading the stations and the attendees,” Vandal wrote in an email. “Not only are the attendees getting a glimpse at the work these graduate students do and getting to learn about a topic through hands-on activities, but graduate students are also gaining experience with communicating their science and favorite topics to a broader audience.”

Vandal did not attend similar events as a child, but thinks it would have had an impact to see scientists in action closer to her age who looked like her and helped her picture herself doing the same one day.

“Though I was interested in math and science from a pretty early age, I think if I had the opportunity to go to an event like this it would have strengthened my curiosity for the STEM field even more,” she wrote. “I hope attendees leave the event feeling inspired and curious. STEM research is vast and always looking for new bright minds to get involved. Ultimately, I would love for them to leave with the message that science is diverse in subject matter, constantly developing and most especially fun!”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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