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Lab on Wheels Takes Science
to Students Around the State
By Pat Keefe
earing eye protection and latex gloves, and answering tough questions from scientists, the Farmington High School students use gel electrophoresis to detect the presence of sickle cell hemoglobin.
The experiment didn't take place in the school, however, but in the parking lot, aboard the BioBus, a mobile laboratory, which is owned by Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE), the state's bioscience cluster.
Two of the three scientists aboard the BioBus at Farmington High had UConn or Health Center degrees, and the University and the Health Center share a contributing sponsorship of the bus.
"I'm so pleased the University sponsors this," said Lois Kiraly, a Farmington High School biology, biotech, anatomy and physiology teacher who participated in the experience Feb. 28.
"The kids love this type of real-world, hands-on experience," she said.
Added Daniel Sabatelli, a senior, "It was interesting and worthwhile." Sabatelli has a science bent - he intends to obtain an engineering degree and become a pilot - and the experiments intrigued him. "I've never done anything like this before," he said.
Sabatelli was one of about 100 science students who took part in the four, 40-minute sessions aboard the bus. In addition to doing a very cool science experiment, the students learned the value and desirability of a science career, they learned how those careers can be enhanced through education, and they learned there are numerous job opportunities in the state for scientists.
The BioBus is a custom-designed, state-of-the-art, fully equipped biotechnology laboratory that began visiting Connecticut schools and communities last September. The bus provides a tangible link between science promotional efforts and the movement to stop the brain drain; the higher education establishment; and burgeoning bioscience initiatives in the state.
A five-year, $3 million partnership of CURE members and Connecticut Innovations, the BioBus is intended to provide local educators with current information, teaching techniques, and hands-on experience in a biotechnology laboratory; generate student interest in and excitement for bioscience to motivate and encourage career exploration in the field, by using fun, relevant, hands-on, inquiry-based science experiments; and foster general public understanding, enthusiasm, and support for bioscience.
"This was a good educational experience," said Bethany Tarascio, a Farmington High School junior.
"It makes you realize going to school can help you achieve what you want to do."