Biotech reaches out to students
Middle school students introduced to careers in science at MedImmune
Scientists inside the towering, MedImmune fortress along Great Seneca Highway in Gaithersburg have been hard at work for the last five years on an experiment involving local middle school students.
The experiment focuses on getting the students interested in careers in science. The founder of the "Kids in Bio" program believes the company has an obligation to keep homegrown students in the fold to possibly fill future positions within the company one day.
"It's extremely important to us especially to have children in our community pursue jobs in the field of science," said Toni Stiefel, director of corporate responsibility and community affairs.
When the program started five years ago, it focused on getting middle school girls interested in science driven careers. Two years ago, the program included all middle school students, Stiefel said. This year, more than 70 students attended the program, company spokeswoman Elizabeth Huntley said.
Dozens of middle school students donned white lab coats and protective goggles before dividing into tour groups March 10 at MedImmune. Led by scientists, the tours stopped periodically in laboratories to watch scientists perform a variety of experiments.
During one such stop, molecular biologist Mario Cepeda extracted salmon DNA from water. Cepeda handed each of the 10 students in the group a test tube containing water, alcohol, sodium chloride and a small dose of salmon DNA . Students turned the test tubes in their hands as Cepeda did until the salmon DNA separated and floated to the top.
"I think I would like to work here because it's close to home and it's a nice building," said Makenzie Powell, 12, of Derwood. The seventh-grader at Shady Grove Middle School said she probably wants to be a scientist.
MedImmune is looking into creating a similar program in the fall for high school students already interested in science careers , she said.
"We're trying to let them know there are career options in science and they're right here in their own backyard," Stiefel said.