• 75°

Science is for girls at Horizons Unlimited Biotech Camp

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
Kayla VanBuren wanted to be a photographer when she grows up. But after a few days of Biotech Camp at Horizons Unlimited, the Southeast Middle School eighth-grader is having second thoughts.
“I might be changing my mind,” Kayla said. “It’s pretty cool to wear a lab coat.”
Kayla and 19 other rising eighth- and ninth-grade girls are spending this week immersed in science and biotechnology, fields that are traditionally dominated by males.
But this week, girls rule.
Anne Ellis, the science specialist at Horizons, loves to ask, “Who says girls can’t do science?”
It’s a rhetorical question, of course, and Ellis, who taught at North and Knox middle schools for 12 years, works hard to make girls feel comfortable and confident with science.
“At first, they were tentative and a little hesitant,” she said. “But their confidence is building.”
Horizons collaborated with the N.C. Research Campus to pursue funding for the Biotech Camp, which will host 20 middle school boys next month.
Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Robertson Foundation and $6,000 from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, Horizons purchased high-quality equipment that students might find in a real laboratory, including mini-centrifuges and micropipetters.
“The school system could never afford to have something this high-quality,” Horizons director Lisa Wear said. “Because the equipment has been purchased, from now on we will be able to offer this camp at a greatly reduced cost.”
Students this year paid $50 for the week, including meals.
The tools are so advanced that Horizons will offer staff development programs to area high school biology teachers, Wear said.
This week, the girls have inserted DNA from a jellyfish into bacteria to make it glow and determined whether fish species are related by looking at their DNA profile, among other experiments.
“The goal is to engage students in a rigorous science program before high school so that they will choose a path in high school that will lead to a science career,” Wear said.
It appears to be working.
Jessica Kinney wants to study genetics and the brain.
“I want to know how people process thoughts,” the rising ninth-grader at Mallord Creek High School said.
Kaylyn Pogson, who will attend West Rowan High School this fall, likes neurology.
“The brain is so incredibly complex,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll ever completely understand it.”
The girls toured the Research Campus Wednesday, where many scientists are women.
“We have a lot of female role models here,” said Dr. Ashley Dunham, the community health project leader for Duke University’s medical research study based in Kannapolis. “It allows them to see that women can effectively function in a science environment where academia and industry work together.”
The Research Campus, which focuses on health and nutrition, includes eight universities and 17 private companies.
“There is a stereotype that science is a career that men go into,” Dunham said. “That is completely untrue.”
Girls need more encouragement to take science classes and pursue careers in scientific fields, Wear said.
“And sometimes, in ways that are different than we encourage boys,” she said. “A lot of it has to do with the self-confidence that girls need at this particular age.”
While science and math are still considered “nerdy,” that image is changing in middle schools, many of the girls said.
Would it prevent Jessica, the future geneticist, from pursuing a career in science?
“Never,” she said.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Hundreds turn out for annual Juneteenth celebration on newest federal holiday

Local

Between local champions and an upcoming state tournament, pickleball putting Salisbury on map

Business

Business leaders hope to draw big crowd for job fair at West End Plaza

News

Officers cleared in Mooresville shooting

Business

From firefighter to photographer, Brianna Mitschele is ready to capture more moments in downtown Salisbury

News

25 years later, runners reflect on Olympic torch’s trip through Rowan

News

Commissioners to consider designating Newberry Hall House as county historic landmark

Farm & Garden

51st annual Old Southeast Threshers’ Reunion set for July 1-5

Business

Biz Roundup: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Foundation awards grants from Salisbury to Jerusalem

Lifestyle

Kristy Woodson Harvey: For Dad

News

South Salisbury Fire Department activates new weather siren

Lifestyle

Library Notes: Meet the ‘Dare Devil Dogs’ in Week 5

Faith

Q&A with Bishop Tim Smith

College

Wolfpack tops Stanford falls in College World Series opener

Lifestyle

‘Down by the Praise Pond’ shares local author’s faith in debut children’s book

Nation/World

Driver crashes into crowd at Pride parade in Florida; 1 dead

News

Search continues after 3 tubers die, 2 disappear at dam

News

Research from NC State professors is aboard space station

Education

Livingstone College celebrates federal recognition of Juneteenth

College

Wolfpack faces Stanford today in College World Series

Nation/World

Tropical weather lashes Gulf Coast with winds, rain

Nation/World

Girl attacked by bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

News

Cooper vetoes bill that would have allowed more to carry guns in churches

News

Two tubers remain missing after going over Dan River dam