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The School of Graduate Studies

Summer Science Camp 2014

The first of its kind at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, the Downstate Summer Science Camp for middle school students was launched July, 2014. For one week, five enthusiastic students from Parkside Preparatory Academy immersed themselves into life as young scientists, answering questions about their environment. What kinds of bacteria are present in our environment? Which household cleaning items are effective in preventing bacterial growth, and are they really necessary? Are commonly used antibiotics effective in killing bacteria that is found in our surroundings? Does protein, RNA, or DNA allow bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance?

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The Summer Science Camp scientists and their mentors are getting themselves prepared for the day's experiments.
(Left to right: Angelina Hodge; Ruth Ann Powell; Mentor Meghan Walsh; Johann Bastien; Laurelle Ashley; Sherwin Bacchus; Mentor Yekaterina Merkulova)

After generating individual hypotheses, participants designed and carried out their own experiments. In a laboratory at SUNY Downstate, the young scientists performed all aspects of the experiments including growing, staining, and transforming bacteria, as well as performing daily laboratory tasks. The students analyzed their results in order to confirm or refute their hypotheses. Then, they discussed additional experiments and relevance to current scientific news. The camp culminated with a poster session, where participants proudly shared their work and findings with the Downstate and neighborhood communities.

Laurelle Ashley, one of the Summer Science Camp participants, said, “I thought the summer science program was a great experience and it helped me gain more knowledge of how bacteria was created, and the program exposed me to more things than what I had learned in school.”

The science camp was free for participants through a grant from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and support from the dean of Downstate’s School of Graduate Studies, Mark Stewart, MD, PhD. Two mentors, Meghan Walsh (a 5th year PhD student) and Yekaterina Merkulova (a 6th year MD/PhD student), wrote the curriculum specifically for the camp. Kristine Paulsson, director of the STEM after-school mentoring program at Downstate, provided support and guidance for the program. Larry Eberle, the systems administrator at the Neurosim Lab, and Nicholas Penington, PhD, and Keith Williams, PhD, of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, generously allowed use of their laboratories, equipment, and materials. Peter Bergold, PhD, of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology helped to brainstorm ideas for the experiments.

The first session of the camp was an enormous success, and the intention is to expand the program by collaborating with more educational institutions in Brooklyn. The camp mentors are delighted to have been able to create experiences that share their passions for science and outreach with local students.


Additional Photos