Sussex Science Night

Delaware Biotechnology Institute coalescing a community around STEM

9:49 a.m., March 25, 2016–The Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI), in partnership with the Sussex County Science Fair Committee, hosted its second annual Sussex Science Night in Georgetown, Delaware, on Tuesday, March 22.

More than 150 students, parents, teachers, and public officials engaged in hands on science activities at Sussex Academy to draw focus on the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) training and jobs to the community.

The afterschool event brought together students from over 10 different schools from throughout Sussex County.

Kelvin Lee, DBI director and Gore Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware, welcomed everyone to the event and thanked the host, coordinators, teachers, sponsor and state legislators, including Reps. Ruth Briggs King and Harvey Kenton and Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, who took time out of their busy schedules to come and join this community STEM event.

As a part of DBI’s Science for All Delawareans program, the Sussex Science Night is designed to engage middle school students with science through fun and educational experiments.

“A number of studies have shown a significant drop-off in student interest toward science during the middle school years,” Lee said, adding that “DBI is addressing this fallout, not only through exposing students to its cutting edge science facility but also taking experiences to the students who do not have access to such resources.”

Students and their parents performed three experiments that highlighted the three pillars of research at DBI: human health, agriculture, and energy and the environment.

Students made two different types of hydrogels and learned how these materials are used to mimic different tissues in the body to study human health. Students and their parents also extracted DNA from strawberries, an important technique for understanding traits in plants and animals important for agriculture.

Lastly, students were taught the concept of fermentation, which can be used to produce alternate energy sources like biofuels, through an experiment that used growing yeast to blow up a balloon.

These experiments formed part of a theme used by the Science for All Delawareans initiative related to “small changes” that can have “big effects.”

Activities were developed by graduate students associated with UD’s Systems Biology of Cells in Engineered Environments, a National Science Foundation-funded Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) doctoral training program.

Different classrooms hosted various activities led by IGERT students, Chemistry Biology Interface (CBI) students, and UD doctoral student volunteers.

“We could not have pulled this together without the hard work put in by Jennifer Mantle, our DBI Townsend Fellow, help from the student volunteers, support from the Sussex County Science Fair Committee and We Work For Health, as well as the amazing teachers at Sussex Academy,” said Catherine Stoner, associate director of programs at DBI and project lead on the Sussex Science Night.

About Delaware Biotechnology Institute

The Delaware Biotechnology Institute is a partnership among government, academia and industry to help establish the First State as a center of excellence in biotechnology and the life sciences. DBI promotes research, education and technology transfer for biotechnology applications to the benefit of the environment, agriculture, and human health.

Article written by: Alok Patel

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State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn eagerly joins families in learning about hydrogels.

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State Rep. Ruth Briggs King sits with the students to learn about fermentation, which can be used to produce alternate energy sources like biofuels.