Student Testimonials: 2014-2013


Cameron Berry

Grad student, Developmental Biology
Minx Fuller Lab
Research interest: Adult Stem Cell Microenvironment

The Tech experience gave me the confidence and tools to communicate science with nonscientists.

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 It was a unique experience relative to other volunteer activities I had done, providing autonomy and feedback in teaching science to school kids. Teaching the kids at the museum was so rewarding! Watching how excited the kids would get about isolating and seeing their own DNA or solving a crime using DNA forensics reminded me of my own initial excitement that spurred my path into biology. I gained many great memories, learned a ton about communicating science, and truly enjoyed the experience!

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Jenna Caldwell

Grad Student, Biochemistry
Pehr Harbury Lab
Research interest: Conformational Change in Molecular Machines

Participating in the Stanford at the Tech program has been a hugely rewarding experience.

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I was initially looking for a way to improve my science communication, and it was extremely helpful in that regard.  Talking to young kids forces you to find ways to convey complicated ideas in simple, digestible chunks and decide which details just don't matter.  Now, when I talk to adults and even to other scientists, I apply those communication lessons I learned at the museum and while writing answers for Ask a Geneticist. Besides all of the skills that I got to practice, though, it was just a lot of fun!  It was really heartwarming to see how excited all of the young kids at the Tech Museum got.  Even the older students at Overfelt High School had a blast!  I remember one teenager in particular who seemed determined to stay grumpy during the whole class period.  He was obviously way too cool for any of this stuff and wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone.  Ten minutes later, though, after he’d transformed bacteria with a gene for green fluorescent protein, he was grinning ear-to-ear and asking questions.  Their enthusiasm was infectious—I always went back to lab with a smile on my face.  I highly recommend this program!

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Liz Freeman

Grad Student, Biology 
Martin Jonikas Lab
Research interest: Carbon acquisition in algal photosynthesis

Working with Stanford at the Tech has been one of the highlights of my graduate career.

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Teaching and interacting with people of all backgrounds and ages is challenging, invigorating, and just plain fun, and it has really shown me the importance of science education. I’ve TA’ed a lecture class as well as a lab-based class in the past, and Stanford at the Tech is a mixture of the best, most fun parts of those, but in a casual and fast-paced environment. Going to the Tech is a wonderful counterpoint to graduate work, which can be so inward-focused; this experience has definitely helped me become a better communicator (both speaking and writing) and teacher. Learning to assess on-the-fly how well someone you’ve never met is understanding a complex concept, and adapting your explanation as needed, is a majorly useful skill in all walks of life, and I’ve noticed myself becoming much better at this in my 2 quarters at the Tech. If any of that sounds good to you, then definitely recommend this program!

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Roberta Hannibal

Postdoc, Genetics
Baker Lab
Research interest: Placenta evolution, development and genomics

Stanford at the Tech was a great opportunity to contribute to science education while having lots of fun!

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At the Tech Museum, I got to explain basic, but fundamentally important, genetic concepts to all kinds of people. It was incredibly rewarding to see how excited Tech Museum visitors became while performing experiments and learning about genetics. My favorite activity was one where participants stained their own cheeks cells to see their own DNA. At the end of the activity, they even got to take a photo of their cheek cell DNA home with them. Not only did this activity teach people about their DNA, but it led to further discussion on all kinds of topics. One family decided to compare their DNA portraits in order to see if they could tell which parts of the child’s DNA came from each parent. This led to a lively discussion about the staining and analysis methods we could use to answer that question. Participating in Stanford at the Tech was a great opportunity to develop my ability to communicate science with the general public. More importantly, helping to achieve this program's goal of making biology fun and unintimidating to everybody is crucial to the future of science.

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Alisa Lehman

Grad Student, Biology
Long Lab
Research interest: Nitrogen Fixation and Symbiosis

Volunteering with Stanford at the Tech has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my graduate career.

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I’ve been able to interact with young students, possibly being their first exposure to basic genetics concepts. It’s pretty amazing to see students grasp concepts for the first time and become excited and engaged with science. Equally important has been writing responses to Ask a Geneticist and being able to engage with a world-wide audience. I’ve gained a new perspective on teaching, and improved my writing and oral communication skills. Without this opportunity my graduate career would not be complete.

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Dan Van de Mark

Grad Student, Biology
Stearns Lab 
Research interest: Centrosome and Cilia Biology

The Stanford at the Tech program has been an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile experience.

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I'd highly recommend it to all Bioscience grad students, as there is something for everyone to get out of it. It has also been a lot of fun! I've had other teaching opportunities as a T.A. in grad school. And although I enjoyed those experiences, I feel like I've learned a lot more about how to be a teacher from my time at the Tech. Teaching the same short lessons multiple times allowed me to really figure out what works and what doesn't work--and to figure out how to tailor the same basic information to people with different ages or backgrounds. It's been the best experience I have ever had in terms of preparing me to communicate science to the general public. And it has been great to get instant feedback from week to week in the form of a kid's facial expressions clearly indicating that they've just understood the point of a lesson, or to see them get excited when they see a photograph of their own cheek cells, or to hear a high school student tell you that learning how to use DNA to solve crimes has been the best part of their day. On top of all of that, the 'Ask a Geneticist' posts have given me my first real experience at writing about science for general audiences. It has been an overall fantastic experience, and I feel very grateful to have been involved with the program.

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Sahil Kejriwal

Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest: Impact of genetic conditions in India

Teaching kids genetics was a rewarding experience.

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 As a graduate student on the genetic counseling program I was trained in communicating complex information about hereditary conditions and genetic testing to individuals or families affected by them. However, most of this communication is with adults; communicating genetic concepts is challenging on a whole new level! I noticed that the process of teaching genetics in an interactive way was fun for the kids and immensely gratifying to me because of the potential that it had to spur an initial interest in genetics, which in turn might put some of them on the path to becoming great scientists of the future.

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Adrienne Miller

Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest: Awareness of genetic inheritance and sickle cell disease

If you love genetics, want to get good at communicating it at all levels, and like kids -- you should definitely volunteer with the Stanford at the Tech program!

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As a graduate student training to be a genetic counselor, the experience afforded me the opportunity to improve those skills which are at the core of my field.  Working with kids is a reminder that people learn many different ways, so it's only right we strive to find multiple ways to talk about genes and heredity.  It's also a great feeling when you can get people excited about a topic you love!

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Arielle Yablonovitch

Grad Student, Biophysics
Li Lab 
Research interest: RNA editing in Drosophila

Volunteering at the Tech Museum was a fun and unique way to improve my science communication skills. 

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Showing demonstrations at the museum and writing answers to the “Ask A Geneticist” questions let me learn a lot about how to translate complex genetics topics into something that is interesting and understandable to a non-scientist.  In the process I became much more comfortable talking to the general public about science, and better at guiding people through the logic and ideas behind the experiments we were doing.  It was also satisfying to see kids (and adults!) get excited about seeing their own cheek cells under the microscope, or figuring out whether they have a taste receptor gene mutation.  They were able to see how biology and genetics relates to their own lives, and came away with the impression that science is interactive and fun!  I am very thankful that I was able to participate in this program and would recommend it to anyone interested in science outreach and communication.

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Amy Johnson

Grad Student, Biology
Skotheim Lab
Research interest: Mammalian Cell Cycle Control

Working at the Tech was definitely one of the highlights of grad school!

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I absolutely loved this opportunity to step back from research and improve my science communication skills. Doing experiments with kids was my favorite part, and I also enjoyed the invaluable chance to sharpen my writing. I really liked seeing both kids and adults get so excited about an experiment that they couldn't help but grab a friend or family member and bring them over to do it with them. I'd fully recommend this program to any graduate student or postdoc looking to rekindle their love for science while developing valuable skills.

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Jessica Profato

Grad Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling 
Research interest: Personalized medicine and cancer genetics

Working at the Tech was an educational and rewarding experience!

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It was very fun working with the children and getting to see how fast they are able to learn many difficult concepts! It was fantastic to hear children get excited about science and to see them start to understand things like why our genes are important! My favorite moments were when children would announce that they wanted to be a scientist some day because I felt like I was inspiring students to continue learning about science, even after they leave the Tech. This experience also taught me that many "science experts" can take the "basics" of science and genetics for granted, and it was a great reminder that these concepts are challenging to learn at first and are even more challenging to teach! It is important for individuals who work in science to spend some time learning how to communicate science to the public, so that more people are able to learn about scientific topics that are becoming more and more important over time.

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Nadine Rayes

Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling 
Research interest: Genetic Counseling and Huntington Disease Genetic Testing Practices

The time I spent at the Tech served as a way of detaching myself from the stress and chaos of graduate school to simply have some fun with children visiting the Museum.

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Working at the Tech has not only been a fun and rewarding experience, it has also complemented my genetic counseling training at Stanford by strengthening my communication skills. I loved having the opportunity to come up with new ways to explain genetics to the kids and answer questions about genetics from the general public. The best part of running the experiments at the Tech was watching the kids be amazed by science and listening to the ways in which they use their intuition and their own sense of logic to string pieces of information together. I am really glad that I participated in such an amazing program and I would highly recommend Stanford at the Tech to other graduate students.

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Anne Sapiro

Grad Student, Genetics
Billy Li Lab
Research interest: Regulation of mRNA Processing

Teaching science at the Tech was an eye-opening, rewarding experience that every scientist should have.

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It was wonderful to see kids get to experience the fun side of science while learning a little about how the world works. Through the program, I learned a lot about communicating and teaching science while also getting to step back from my research and remind myself why I fell in love with science in the first place. Getting the chance to share my enthusiasm for genetics with everyone from young children and high school students to their parents and grandparents has helped set me up for communicating my science wherever my future career might take me.

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Abbey Thompson

Grad Student, Genetics
David Kingsley Lab
Research interest: Molecular basis of vertebrate evolution

The Stanford at the Tech program is a fantastic experience, and one that all grad students should consider!

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From teaching high school students how to load a gel, to guiding 6 year olds through looking at their cheek cells, to talking to parents about the field of genetics, the program helps you learn how to talk about science to a wide range of backgrounds and education levels. The communication skills that I learned while at The Tech were completely different from those that are typically used as a grad student, yet applicable to anyone who has ever struggled to explain their research to their family or at a cocktail party. One of the most interesting parts of the experience for me was acting as a docent for the traveling Genome exhibit. It was illuminating to talk to the public about genetics and genomics, and really made me aware of the level of scientific understanding of the average person. The Tech experience drove home the importance of talking about our work with the public, as most people are very interested in learning about what scientists are doing, and why. I highly recommend it to anyone, especially those who are interested in science communication or education!

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Ryan Bell

Grad Student, Genetics

Andrew Fire Lab

Research interest: 

Molecular basis of vertebrate evolution

Working at the Tech is a blast, hones your communication skills, and provides an important service to the public.

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A few hours running an activity at the Tech will impress you with the need for science outreach, the unique skills required to convey complex ideas to the uninitiated, and how far you've come in your own understanding of genetics. After a couple of quarters, you will have reached hundreds of people, most of them children, and imparted enlightening concepts that are often missing from their education. The best part is that it's entertaining for everyone involved. I feel lucky to have been able to participate in the program.

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Kimberly McManus


Grad Student, Biology
Carlos Bustamante Lab
Research interest:
Population genetics and bioinformatics

 

Volunteering at the Tech has been a fantastic opportunity to improve my science communication skills and get the public excited about science!

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 It gave me a great understanding about the public's knowledge of science and how I can help to increase it. I was impressed with the public's curiosity about science, and I hope to use my new-found skills to increase the open dialogue between scientists and the public.

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Jillynne Quinn

Grad Student, Biophysics
Sharon Long Lab
Research interest:
Nanoarchitecture of the plant cell wall

At The Tech Museum, you can interact with students from a wide range of grade levels and scientific understanding.

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This is great practice for improving your scientific communication skills.

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Elizabeth Wiltshire

Grad Student, Biology
David Ehrhardt Lab
Research interest:
Nitrogen fixation and symbiosis

Stanford at the Tech has been a highlight of my time at Stanford.

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While I already had a lot of experience in science communication, having worked for years at a science museum in my home country, there were two things that I gained from volunteering at the Tech over and above what I was already familiar with. The first thing I took away from the Tech was how to prototype a new exhibit. This involved taking an initial idea, coming up with a protocol testing myself, testing with children, redoing the protocol based on how they can break things, right through to filming demonstration videos for a final floor test. I hadn't thought about how much prototyping was required before something makes its way out to onto the museum floor. Secondly, working with high school students at Overfelt High School was a really fun and challenging experience. While younger kids come in to a science museum with a certain level of excitement that carries through to their participation in demonstrations, many high school students are there under protest. Finding a way to engage with these students and getting them to be excited about science felt like a major victory!

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Natalie Chavez

Grad Student, Biology
James Nelson Lab
Research interest: Mechanical Signaling in Epithelial Cells

Stanford at the Tech was a challenging and rewarding growth spurt in my development as a scientist!

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The most valuable skill I gained was the ability to read my audience and adapt my language to make science accessible and exciting. It was difficult to break out of the drilled-in science jargon I was used to in the lab, but doing so was liberating. The best part was seeing the kids (and parents) “ooh and aah” over their epiphanies during the science workshops. This experience reinvigorated my passion towards my own research. By educating the public on science, I felt I was doing my duty as a scientist to facilitate the understanding and appreciation of science to ensure continued funding of our scientific pursuits. The most memorable experience for me was my participation on a career panel at Overfelt High School. As a native from that San Jose community, it was quite impactful to share my journey with the high school students illustrating how I got to graduate school from those same classroom seats. The program has many meaningful connections to the local community and it was great to be a part of it! I would highly recommend this program to all scientists.

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Katie Kobara

Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest:
Accessibility of Genetics Services

The Stanford at the Tech program was such a wonderful and enriching experience.

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It was a fun and rewarding experience to interact with both children and adults while sharing my love of science. Stanford at the Tech is a great way to practice communicating complex topics to individuals of varying backgrounds while getting the younger generation interested and excited about science. My experience at the Tech has been incredible and one that I will never forget!

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Ashley Navarro

Master's Student, Genetic Counseling
Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Research interest:
Hereditary Cancer in African Americans

Working at the Tech helped me develop great communication skills that are so rewarding!

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As a genetic counselor it will be my job to convey complex genetic information to patients. Majority of the patients I have experience with are adults, however limiting the complexity of information is still important. In the genetic counseling environment it is very important for individuals to have a good understanding so they can make informed decisions. Working at the Tech every week gave me the opportunity to practice breaking down the complex information for varying age groups. It was a great opportunity and I will take the skills I learned with me as I pursue my career.

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Catherine Hartzell

Grad Student, Immunology
Richard Lewis Lab
Research interest:
Calcium signaling and T cell activation

Stanford at the Tech was a welcomed respite from the toils of grad school.

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 Seeing kids become excited about genetics was incredibly rewarding and provided some perspective on my lab work. It was inspiring to see how excited both kids and adults would get at the opportunity to talk to a scientist from Stanford. Answering “Ask a Geneticist” questions was a great experience in learning how to write about science for a broad audience. Finally, the most rewarding part of the experience for me was visiting Overfelt high school and presenting programs for the biology classes there. Though the kids rarely voiced their excitement, they were clearly engaged and learning from our hands-on activities. I highly recommend this program for anyone with interest in science education and outreach.

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Anja Scholze

Grad Student, Developmental Biology
Ben Barres Lab
Research interest:
Developmental neurobiology and glia

Being involved with Stanford at the Tech provided me with truly invaluable experiences, skills and insights into a range possibilities beyond academic science.

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All scientists can benefit from learning to engage the public and communicate their science, and my time at The Tech was an excellent resource for doing just that. In addition to various external outreach experiences, the program provided the unique opportunity to have a museum setting as the major platform for engagement. I loved trying to spark curiosity about genetics in people of all ages, backgrounds and perspectives as they unknowingly wandered by my activity table. Adapting content to effectively communicate genetics across diverse venues, group sizes and knowledge levels was a challenge that I found both absorbing and rewarding. My experience as part of Stanford at the Tech will, and already has, shaped my path forward.forward!

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Alicia Shep

Grad Student, Genetics
Greeleaf Lab
Research interest:
Role of nucleosome positioning in gene regulation


I'd recommend Stanford at the Tech to any and all graduate students in Genetics as a great way to learn how to communicate science.

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Rather than just throwing you in front of a group of kids with some reagents, the program is structured so you learn how to communicate effectively. The first time you do an experiment at the museum, there is a student who has already done it that is there with you to show you the ropes. Barry also provides feedback the first few sessions you do a particular experiment. With the writing "Ask a Geneticist" segment, Barry again provides extensive feedback so that you can get better at communicating. I learned a great deal about science communication from the Stanford at the Tech program and am excited to apply what I have learned going forward!

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Dara Strauss-Albee

Grad Student, Immunology
Catherine Blish Lab
Research interest:
Natural killer cells in HIV infection

Even after hearing so many positive reviews, Stanford at the Tech still far exceeded my expectations.

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I learned so many tips on both written and oral communication that I never would have otherwise thought about. Working with kids and high schoolers was such fun and reminded me why I was excited about science in the first place. I'll never forget the kid who had already heard of evolution - because of the Evolutionary War, of course! I'm so glad I had this experience and will carry forward the communication skills and enthusiasm I gained throughout my career.

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Shifeng Xue

Grad Student, Genetics/Dev Bio
Maria Barna Lab
Research interest:
Translational regulation in vertebrate development

If you're thinking of participating in this program, do it!

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It was extremely rewarding to see kids understand what I was trying to teach them in 10 minutes and answer all my questions right. It was lots of fun to discuss new scientific advances with the older kids and adults. It was also a great experience shaping "Ask a Geneticist" answers into something simple yet informative. This was one of the best experiences I've had as a grad student and I would definitely recommend it.

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Nora Yucel

Grad Student, Genetics
Helen Blau Lab
Research interest:
Biology of muscle generation

My "Tech" experience was overall extremely positive, and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity.

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Teaching kids, from pre-schoolers to high school seniors, was a great way to connect with the community outside of my own research. I believe that Stanford at the Tech, and similar programs, are vitally important for cultivating scientific curiosity in kids and can help spark early interest in a scientific career. I definitely believe it's our responsibility as scientists to spread our knowledge, dispel common misconceptions, and generally show the public that scientists are people, too. The Tech was fun break in the routine of research, and I would recommend this program to anyone!

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Emily Crane

Postdoctoral Student, Genetics
Billy Li Lab
Research interest:
RNA editing in Drosophila

The Stanford at the Tech Program was an incredibly enriching experience, and a wonderful addition to my postdoctoral training.

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Through my past graduate program and current fellowship as a NIH IRACDA postdoctoral teaching fellow, I have had some training about how to explain science to students at the undergraduate level. However, the Stanford at the Tech program really challenged me to expand my horizons and learn to teach science to people of all ages. A few of these activities included, co-teaching an AP Biology lab to high school students, sitting on a panel for 7th graders interested in genetic engineering, and also running a huge variety of exhibits on the museum floor, which were attended by children, parents and grandparents! In each of these experiences I was continually amazed by how wonderful it felt to help somebody understand and become excited about genetics. I found the Stanford at the Tech program incredibly inspiring. I only wish I could have stayed longer!

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Glenn Markov

Grad Student, Genetics
Maria Barna Lab
Research interest:
Reprogramming and DNA Methylation

Volunteering at the Tech is a fun, rewarding, and challenging experience!

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It isn’t easy explaining why DNA is so important to a 5th grader. It is even more difficult getting the 5th grader excited about genetics. Doing both can be quite satisfying. That is why I’m glad I was up to the challenge. I really felt I made huge improvements each time I spoke to whoever came up to the station that day. I was often a bit nervous before, but afterwards I felt lighter and happier. I feel that I made a small difference each time I came to the Tech in how people viewed themselves and the world around them. At the same time, I feel like it was an equally immense learning opportunity for me.

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