EIPM Hosts Visit by World Science Academy

EIPM Hosts Visit by World Science Academy

The Englander Institute for Precision Medicine welcomed a visit by World Science Academy high school students last month to learn about the field of precision medicine, take part in hands-on experiments, and meet our professional staff.

The World Science Academy (WSA) is a pre-college program for New York City high school students and educators that provides exclusive access to renowned scientists in a multitude of environments. With in-person and online activities tailored to student interests, high school students can gain a lifelong interest in the sciences while teachers advance their own learning.

WSA staff and students (left) arrived on the Weill Cornell Medicine campus in the late afternoon after their classes had finished, and were welcomed and received an overview of precision medicine by EIPM Director Olivier Elemento, Ph.D. (right) “I really love engaging with young people and sharing our passion for advancing science and creating new treatments for patients,” said Dr. Elemento. “Mentoring and providing meaningful opportunities to young people, through internships for example, is very important to me personally and to our Institute. Every one of my professional colleagues can remember an important mentor in their past who provided inspiration and motivation when they were a student, and it’s so important to give back to young people whenever possible.”

WCM’s Assistant Dean for Mentoring Ruth Gotian, EdD, MS, (left) then addressed the guests and spoke about the importance of mentorship and professional development. “As Weill Cornell Medicine’s Assistant Dean for Mentoring, I really enjoy engaging with young people and providing them with guidance on how to think about their future career paths and why identifying mentors—at any age, or at any point in someone’s career—is so important for achieving their professional goals. Weill Cornell Medicine takes seriously our mission of engaging with our community members and neighbors, and sharing our knowledge and passion for science and medicine. This was my second time speaking with this particular group of New York City high school students, and I have found them to be curious, engaged and highly-motivated. We wish the students and their WSA colleagues much success,” said Ruth Gotian, EdD, MS, Assistant Dean for Mentoring at Weill Cornell Medicine.

“Imagine being a high school student and knowing you’re interested in science, but don’t know what direction to focus on. Then you attend a World Science Academy program at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Englander Institute for Precision Medicine and you learn about a new and growing field. The students who attended this special event reported how inspired they were to meet geneticists, computer scientists, biostatisticians, and medical professionals in various stages of their careers. Through talks and breakout workshops, the students received advice on finding mentors, courses to take in college, and next steps in thinking about their future,” said Caroline Gelb, Associate Director, Education and Outdoor Programming for the World Science Foundation (right).

The students then moved on to 30-minute rotating breakout sessions in the Belfer Research Building, where EIPM staff members explained their professional roles and responsibilities, and outlined the goals of each breakout session.

EIPM’s Director of Ex Vivo Models Laura Martin, Ph.D., (left) provided a research lab tour and an overview of her work on our organoid platform. Her colleagues Florencia Madorsky Rowdo, Cynthia Cheung, Anna Tsomides, Adriana Irizarry, and Phoebe Reuben helped lead the tour of EIPM’s 14th floor laboratory space and led microscopic examinations of organoids, or three-dimensional cellular structures, to see how scientists conduct research and help identify the best treatment options for patients in the lab.

Photo credit: World Science Festival/Greg Kessler

The students participated in a second breakout session on DNA extraction (right) led by EIPM Research Technicians Daria Ivenitsky, Dan Bockelman, and Troy Kane. The students extracted DNA from strawberries using common household materials to see first-hand how DNA can be isolated without advanced technologies and equipment. The students also learned how researchers find mutations that allow them to target disease.

EIPM’s Director of Informatics and Computational Biology Andrea Sboner, Ph.D. (left), together with EIPM Bioinformatics Engineer Kenneth Eng, led a third breakout session on computational biomedicine. The WSF students and staff learned how computational biology delivers a variety of new techniques that can have broad ranging impacts in medicine, particularly surrounding the analysis of large datasets and prediction of clinical outcomes.

“I was quite surprised by the level of engagement and knowledge demonstrated by the students,” said Dr. Sboner. “The lively discussions I had with them showed their interest in science and medicine, and I hope some of them will come back for a summer internship with us or even as medical students in the future. Precision medicine needs motivated young people like these to bring science and technology closer to patient care.”

World Science Academy students and staff concluded their second annual visit with refreshments and informal networking with EIPM staff who discussed careers in academic medicine along with ‘unconventional’ healthcare careers in STEM.

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