When deciding on their future career paths, high school students without natural affinities for science or data might not be drawn to the job title "researcher" — and that’s something The San Diego Foundation and the J. Craig Venter Institute hope to change. The two entities recently teamed up to host a STEAM Leadership Series to educate students on different science-based jobs that tend to float under the radar.
“Here we obviously have a lot of research positions, but it’s not just sitting and doing the same thing over and over again,” said marketing and development manager for the institute, Jessica Mcavinue. ”We just want to open their eyes to all the different experiences they can have and maybe spark an interest in what they see.”
On April 10, 75 high school students from around San Diego spent the morning at the J. Craig Venter Institute listening to a keynote speech from Dr. J. Craig Venter himself about his contributions to genomic research as well as how he got his start at community college before earning the Presidential Medal of Science. They also heard from Dr. Karen E. Nelson, president of the institute and a 2018 inductee to the National Academy of Sciences, about how she began her career in Jamaica.
After the speeches, the students broke off into the small groups to take part in different interactive lab environments on ocean sampling, microbiome research, infomatic sequencing, and synthetic biology. In these labs, students were taught things like how to differentiate what organisms are in the ocean through state-of-the-art microscopes and how to use DNA to modify cell bacteria.
The purpose of the day was to show students that not only are there a variety of science career options available for them to pursue, but that they don't all require being huddled inside a lab for weeks on end. For instance, one of their researchers recently spent a year living on a boat, going around the globe and sampling ocean water.
“One of our initiatives to give back as a non-profit is to educate the local students about potential careers in STEAM areas, specifically science and research for us, and expose them to real-life science that they might not get in a classroom,” Mcavinue said.
“We want to make sure the kids know that you don’t have to have a Ph.D. or be a scientist to work here.”
For more information on the J. Craig Venter Institute, visit jcvi.org.