Young Science Explorers Program captivates middle school students over the summer

Prepares them for science careers

BALTIMORE, Md. - Behind safety glasses, a girl intently focused on the task at hand, detecting the color change from a combination she just made. The goal to find out if the vial's contents are acidic or basic.

She's in 6th grade, and part of a class from Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, on a field trip at Emergent Biosolutions. The company produces vaccines kept here and around the world.

She and her class went to five different companies to tour the facilities, learn about science careers and conduct their own experiments to understand what each company does.

This came at no cost to the school or students, thanks to MdBio, a local nonprofit who gives underprivileged youth the opportunity to get hands on experience in this field.

"It's awesome to have kids in here who might pursue careers in biotech in the future, it's not just science jobs we offer, we have jobs in manufacturing, quality testing in the lab, engineering. So there's a whole bunch of places people can go so we're privileged to show them what we do," Vice President of Emergent Scott Battist said.

BLSYW is an all girls school, and the ladies took the lessons they learned to heart.

"Not just in Baltimore but throughout the country science isn't what we would consider a career for young women, but we're trying to break that stereotype, to make them understand that science is in every part of your life," Principal Chevonne Hall said.

At Emergent, the 24 girls sat in a conference room, turned classroom, and learned about vaccines. One of the processes they learned was chromatography, a procedure that separates components of a substance, essentially filtering it. This purifies their vaccines.

Then, they tried it themselves, "we're taking alcohol and water and we put color on paper so that the color could go up the paper while the alcohol stays on the bottom," 6th Grader Delaney Cooley said.

Cooley said it was really cool, a feeling echoed by the girls around the room.

On the other side of the table four ladies mixed baking soda into vials filled with different fluid, like beet juice, detergent and white vinegar to find out how acidic or basic the content were.

"The detergent is blue.. it means that if it's pink it has 1-2 pH limits and blue has 8 pH limits," 6th Grader Janiya Jones explained.

The students' favorite part of the tour? Dressing head to toe in clean suits to go into the pressurized labs. That means, gloves, goggles, booties, a hooded white suit and a mask.

"You cannot breathe in them," one student said exasperated, flailing her arms. This gave them insight as to what scientists go through everyday to create invaluable products for society.

"This is very rewarding for us to do this and what's really great also is seeing the excitement not only with the student but also with the staff, how excited they get when they get to work with the students," Chief Executive Officer with MdBio Foundation Brian Gaines said.

Delaney said at the end of the day, she wants to be a scientist, proving their summer program is working.

This is MdBio's 9th year doing the YSEP program. This summer they had three sessions with three different schools. The sessions are 30 hours throughout a school week.

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