Exploring Horizons: ME Bioscience Day 2023

ME Bioscience Day provides opportunities for students to gain insights from esteemed professionals in the field of life sciences through a combination of in-person and virtual programming

ME Bioscience Day brings professional scientists into middle school classrooms to generate a hands-on learning experience while also raising awareness of career opportunities available within Maine’s life sciences industry. Welcome to ME Bioscience Day, where curiosity meets innovation, and the future of bioscience unfolds! Our 8th annual event took place throughout the week of November 13, 2023. In its eighth year, this event continues to be a beacon for budding scientists, educators, and industry professionals alike.

ME Bioscience Day is BioME’s largest educational program, fostering connections between life science professionals and Maine middle school students to inspire the next generation of our industry. In 2023, we offered a hybrid format, incorporating both virtual and in-person programming.

ME Bioscience Day by the numbers

15

Counties participating in 2023

46

Schools participating in 2023

5,400

Students participating in 2023

43

Volunteers from 20 companies participated in 2023

Virtual Programming: Scientists’ video presentations

The virtual program began with video presentations from Patrick Breeding (Co-Founder and CEO, Marin Skincare), Dr. Caitlin Howell (Professor of Biomedical Engineering, University of Maine), Sarah Joyce (Microbiologist, Kennebec River Biosciences), and Lindsay Ware (Owner, Science Dogs of New England). The presenters spoke a bit about what life science is, the variety of jobs within the industry, their company, and what their day-to-day jobs look like.

Virtual Hands-On Activity: Genetic Traits Inventory & PTC Paper Taste Test

Following the scientists’ video presentations was an interactive hands-on activity, allowing students to see scientific principles exhibited in their own classroom.

In this activity, students take an inventory of their own easily observable genetic traits and compare those inventories with other students in groups. Once the inventories are complete, students make data tables and bar graphs showing the most and least common traits in their group. The genetic traits inventory was followed by a PTC (phenylthiocarbamide) paper taste test to show students how genetics influence how we taste different foods.

In-Person Programming

ME Bioscience Day thrives on the dedication of its volunteers. This year, 43 volunteers from 20 companies have generously devoted their time and expertise to make this event a resounding success. Their commitment to nurturing the next generation of scientists is commendable, and their diverse backgrounds add a unique flavor to the event, offering students a glimpse into the real-world applications of bioscience.

In-Person Hands-On Activities

Heather Pollard from the Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences at the University of New England visited Saco Middle School to perform three exciting activities. The activities consisted of: 1. Visual motor adaptation activity with upside down goggles 2. Mendelian genetics activity with supertaster strips testing taste 3. Cell biology activity using a Kirigami Approach.

Four marine scientists from the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences visited students at Bristol Consolidated School. Volunteers presented an overview of research conducted at Bigelow Laboratory and shed light on career opportunities in the field of marine science. Following their presentation, they performed two activities. The initial experiment depicted the effects of the Damariscotta River flowing into the ocean, highlighting the contrasting densities of seawater and freshwater by using food dye. The next activity highlighted the significance of seaweed in our daily lives. Students created seaweed art, a method some scientists employ for preserving and studying seaweed.

Sara Colby from Abbott enjoyed meeting with students at Gray-New Gloucester Middle School. Sarah engages the students in a conversation about neuroscience and brain elasticity, illustrating these principles through the use of prism glasses that alter the field of vision. Beana (can crusher pics and videos).

Sabrina Gormley with NEL Scientific visited students at Winslow Elementary School for ME Bioscience Day. Sabrina’s presentation focused on the difference between good bacteria and bad bacteria (pathogens), and how bacteria is different from viruses. Following the talk, she led a hands-on plate streaking activity, offering students the choice between the Continuous Streak Method and the Quadrant Streak Method. Equipped with Colorex™ Orientation agar plates, Puritan swabs, and sterile water tubes, students observed and gained insights into microbial cultures.

David Champlin from University of Southern Maine visited 7th graders at King Middle School. David researches hormones that regulate insect metamorphosis and maintains a year-round colony of large moth species. He brought these insects to King Middle School for an interactive show-and-tell session, delving into the biological aspects of his research. During the session, students actively participated by assisting in the injection of hormones into hibernating insects to stimulate resumption of metamorphosis.

José Fernandez-Robledo from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences visited Philip W. Sugg Middle School in Lisbon, ME. José works in marine sciences and knows that oyster and clam aquaculture plays a vital role in Maine’s economy. Much like humans, these mollusks can fall ill, and it is crucial to identify the causes behind these diseases. Diagnosing diseases often involves analyzing their blood. After learning about MarBTN, a contagious cancer in steamer clams, and Dermo disease, a protozoan parasite found in American oyster blood, the students engaged in withdrawing blood from oysters using syringes. This hands-on activity allowed students to observe distinct blood types through a microscope.

Gabrielle Royal from Abbott volunteered at South Portland Middle School. She began by sharing insights into her career journey and illuminating the various paths available when pursuing a career in STEM. Gabrielle then provided a brief overview of lateral flow technology before heading into the lab. Each student had the opportunity to conduct a lateral flow COVID test (with no testing involving students).

Marsha Rolle from the Roux Institute visited Durham Middle School. Marsha engaged students in a discussion about career opportunities in biomedical engineering. Before the hands-on activity, she delivered a brief overview of the anatomy of the heart, elucidating its role in distributing oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Subsequently, students participated in a hands-on dissection of chicken hearts to explore those structures up close (chambers, valves, blood vessels), and connect these observations to the functions of the heart discussed earlier.

Liza White from the University of Maine volunteered at Lamoine Middle School. Everyone shared what they love about science and students learned about bio inspired engineering. Liza brought a piece of diffraction grating from her lab and students were about to see what happens when light is blocked.

ME Bioscience Day is a celebration of knowledge, curiosity, and the limitless possibilities within the field of bioscience. Bringing scientists into Maine classrooms not only engages and excites young minds, but it has the possibility to bring about the next generation of Maine bioscientists. ME Bioscience Day feedback from both teachers and volunteers has been amazing and we are excited to begin planning for ME Bioscience Day 2024!

Follow-Up: MSSM Summer School Scholarships

As a follow up to ME Bioscience Day 2023, BioME is funding 4 scholarships in the form of 1-week-long summer science camps at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone. Eligible students must be age 11-14 and attend one of the schools that participated in ME Bioscience Day 2023. Learn more

ME Bioscience Day 2023 Supporters

ME Bioscience Day 2023 Participating Schools

Bristol Consolidated School, Bristol Bruce Whittier Middle School Cape Elizabeth Middle School, Cape Elizabeth
China Middle School, China Durham Community School, Durham Falmouth Middle School, Falmouth
Frank H. Harrison Middle School, Yarmouth Gardiner Regional Middle School, Gardiner Gorham Middle School, Gorham
Gray-New Gloucester Middle School, Gray Great Salt Bay Community School, Damariscotta Greely Middle School, Cumberland
Greenville Consolidated School, Greenville James F. Doughty School, Bangor Jordan-Small Middle School, Raymond
King Middle School, Portland Lake Region Middle School, Naples Lamoine Consolidated School, Lamoine
Lawrence Junior High, Fairfield Lincolnville Central School, Lincolnville Medomak Middle School, Waldoboro
Middle School of the Kennebunks, Kennebunk Mt. Ararat Middle School, Topsham Noble Middle School, Berwick
North Yarmouth Academy, Yarmouth Oak Hill Middle School, Sabattus Phillip W. Sugg Middle School, Lisbon
Piscataquis Community Secondary School, Guilford Presque Isle Middle School, Presque Isle Saco Middle School, Saco
Sanford Middle School, Sanford Scarborough Middle School, Scarborough Searsport District Middle School, Searsport
Skowhegan Area Middle School, Skowhegan South Bristol School, South Bristol South Portland Middle School, South Portland
Spruce Mountain Middle School, Jay Stearns Junior High School, Millinocket Tremont Consolidated School, Bass Harbor
Warsaw Middle School, Pittsfield Waynflete School, Portland Wells Junior High, Wells
William S. Cohen School, Bangor Windham Middle School, Windham Winslow Elementary School, Winslow
York Middle School, York

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