Every year in November, hundreds of excited students from South Texas visit the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio ready to step into the shoes of students and health professionals. I have had the opportunity to participate in the Science Expo since entering the GSBS in 2011 and it has truly been a rewarding experience. Together with a diverse group of graduate students from the GSBS, we developed a hands-on activity for students to learn and explore their own genetics by making observations of their phenotype.
We start out by asking if they have ever met a scientist before; most say no. We then introduce ourselves as scientists, and the students respond with a look of surprise on their faces; perhaps they had a different image of what scientists look like. Our activity begins with a quick interactive presentation on genes. The students then work in pairs to complete their genetic traits worksheet where they observe themselves and their partners for dominant and recessive traits such as the ability to roll their tongue, and the ability to taste the compound PTC, which is known to give broccoli a bitter taste. Once the worksheet is completed, we have the students categorize themselves based on traits on a genetic traits tree and do an obstacle course activity that simulates distinct DNA fragments running through a gel.
This activity is both fun for the visiting students as well as for the graduate students leading the session. At the end, we have time for discussion where the students are eager to learn about our research and career goals; many of them leave with a sense of excitement for science.
Science Expo 2014 will be taking place on Saturday, November 8, 2014. If you would like to volunteer, click here to download the volunteer form. For more information, contact Dr. Irene Chapa, Director of the Office of Recruitment and Science Outreach.
GSBS Students who have participated:
Cathy Samayoa is a PhD candidate in the Cancer and Biology Track of the Department of Cellular and Structural Biology. Under the guidance of Dr. Tekmal, Cathy is researching the role of Estrogen Receptor Î² in breast cancer treatment and prevention.