On Friday, June 9, 2017, Promise to Kate held its first “Day of Discovery” at the University of Florida Center for NeuroGenetics (CNG). Initially, the vision for this day was to bring some of our supporters to UF to tour the labs where research is being conducted that PTK supports, an up close and personal visit with the UF team. After putting the idea out to our group, we found that there was a greater interest from our Junior Board in seeing the labs from a student perspective. With that, we started brainstorming the idea and spoke with the UF team about making the visit more of a field trip. There was great interest from UF because they are looking for ways to educate students about the many opportunities in medical research, how other sciences and fields apply to the research they are doing and this would also serve as a great recruiting opportunity. About the same time, we received a donation from The Root Family Foundation and it was requested that we put the money towards activities related to our Junior Board. And that’s where the idea of the “Day of Discovery” came to fruition. We had a great response, filling all 50 slots that were open for the event.
Students and chaperones were chartered from Jacksonville to Gainesville and were provided with information about our foundation and mission during the trip. Upon arrival and a quick introduction, the participants were divided into groups for interactive tours in the lab. There were four stations prepared by the CNG group. The first station gave an explanation as to how fruit flies are used to study human disease and the group was able to view flies under a microscope. Second, was an interactive demonstration on how to isolate genomic DNA from strawberries. The group was shown how DNA is isolated in the lab for research. The third station provided the group with an introduction as to how cell culture models are used in research. They also saw the different tools used in research including various microscopes such as a phase contrast light microscope and a fluorescence confocal microscope. The last station was also interactive with each participant learning how to load agarose gel. They also learned why gel electrophoresis is important to research. The stations were well organized and the students seemed to love the hands on activities.
After all groups toured the stations, lunch was served and presentations were given by lead researchers, Drs. Andy Berglund and Eric Wang. These presentations focused on how they got involved in research, the opportunities that are available in the research field, bench vs. clinical research, private vs. university jobs, and how research is funded. Following their presentations, a panel of members of the Center for NeuroGenetics was available to answer questions regarding career paths and the various opportunities for education in Science.
The day ended with a tour of the ShandsCair heliport. Students met members of this critical care transport team and got an up close look at one of their helicopters.
We are incredibly thankful for the team at the CNG for their time and effort in putting this day together. It was a wonderful experience and gave the students great insight into the medical research world. Following the trip, we sent a survey to the participants. When asked if this experience impacted their thoughts on college and/or career, one respondent said, “Definitely reaffirmed that I really want to go to medical school and taught me what research really looks like. I definitely want to participate in research in college and beyond more than I did before.” That says it all and is exactly what we are hoping for.
A special thank you to The Root Family Foundation for funding this event. We would love to continue to provide this trip to high school students each year. If you or someone you know would be interested in attending this event, please let us know.