Outreach Event: Sacnistas Volunteer at Seattle Expanding Your Horizons 2012

On Saturday March 10th 2012, at Seattle University in the Capitol Hill, nearly 400 middle school young ladies attended this year’s Seattle Expanding Your Horizons (SEYH) conference event. SEYH is a daylong event where girls from Seattle and surrounding areas are given the opportunity to participate in workshops in the STEM fields. This event is particularly special because local women in the STEM fields are encouraged to design and host workshops. Women biologists, engineers, physicists, and many other local professional women volunteer their time annually to host hands-on workshops that introduce girls to exciting careers involving math, science and computer technology. Most importantly, this conference allows young girls the opportunity to meet and interact with many women in a variety of STEM fields.

This year, several of our UW SACNAS chapter members volunteered with SEYH. I chose to host a microbiology-based workshop with the help of two other women in the UW MCB graduate program. With support from the BioQuest program at Seattle Biomed, a program devoted to introducing high school students to laboratory science, we designed a short workshop using fluorescent bacteria and common household antibacterial agents. After briefly introducing some interesting facts about bacteria, the girls were asked to mix the non-infectious bacteria provided with several different cleaning products including Lysol, bleach, Febreze, antibacterial soaps and natural cleaners. We then “fed” the bacteria a biochemical substrate that when metabolized fluoresces bright yellow. Using handheld black lights and goggles, the young ladies explored which reagents could kill the bacteria and result in no fluorescence in comparison to their bright yellow untreated control.

This activity proved quite popular with most participants, but as a presenter, what I really enjoyed was the time we spent talking with the girls in between the lab protocol steps. During this time, my partner presenters and I discussed our academic background, how we ended up in the sciences and what we plan to do in the future. The girls also shared their experiences with science and talked about whether they were thinking of studying science in college. This was a very important portion of the workshop, providing the girls with diverse personal stories of finding a career path in research.

Also participating was UW Sacnista Natalie Garcia, a PhD student in Medicinal Chemistry. A few of her pictures are posted in the gallery below. Sacnista Tzitziki Lemus also spent some time speaking to the parents of the girls about our SACNAS chapter. She represented us well!

Can’t wait to participate next year. I hope that even more local women in science will be inspired to get involved either as a workshop presenter or event volunteer!

Erica Sanchez is originally from northern California, where I attended UCDavis for my Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology. I am currently a second year graduate student in the Molecular and Cellular Biology program at the UW and the UW SACNAS chapter Secretary.