ME Bioscience Day continues to expand its reach and provide students with a unique opportunity to learn from esteemed life science professionals

Each year, the BioME team and schools across the state look forward to ME Bioscience Day. ME Bioscience Day is a statewide event that aims to get students excited about life science and raise awareness of career opportunities available within Maine’s life sciences industry. Our 6th annual event took place throughout the week of November 15, 2021.

As shown by data in the BioME Industry Report, Maine’s life science sector is thriving, offering diverse fields of study, a myriad of career opportunities, and limitless potential for growth. This event allows students to learn about the industry in Maine right from the source. Scientists and life sciences professionals volunteer their time to show students just what their day-to-day career is like and how many opportunities they have to find the right fit for their future.

In previous years, life science professionals visit local middle school classrooms to discuss their careers with students. Amidst the ongoing pandemic, we were unable to send scientists to local schools. Instead, we organized another successful virtual event to accommodate schools with both in-person and remote learning modalities.

In 2020, we reached over 5,100 students from 46 schools. This year, we reached 7,250 students from 52 schools across 15 of the 16 counties in Maine. From York to Presque Isle, middle school students were expanding their knowledge of science.

ME Bioscience Day by the numbers

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Scientists’ video presentations

Following a similar format to last year, we profiled three talented scientists:

Karlee Markovich – Animal Facility Manager, MDI Biological Laboratory

Karlee Markovich is an Animal Facility Manager at MDI Biological Laboratory in picturesque Mount Desert Island. She specializes in regenerative medical research in animals, where she gets to work with exotic marine invertebrates such as zebrafish, axolotl, and African turquoise killifish. These animals are special because they can regenerate any part of their body, something us humans can’t do!

Day to day, Karlee examines the cells, genomes, and DNA of these animals, and compares it to those of a human, to see how we can translate the animals’ regenerative abilities to humans.

Karlee says MDI Biological Laboratory takes the best care they possibly can to make sure that the animals are safe and treated well. She says, “I love these animals so much, and if we’re going to be using them for our benefit and research to help out humans, then it’s my job to make sure they have the best life that they can have.”

Erin Bouttenot – Indoor Air Quality Technical Manager, Northeast Laboratory Services

Erin Bouttenot is an Indoor Air Quality Technical Manager at Northeast Laboratory Services. She helps us breathe clean, quality air, through finding dangerous invisible contaminants.

In her lab, she grows mold, bacteria, and yeast on culture media. She then uses that media in various settings to test the air for contaminants. Those contaminants are removed from the space accordingly, resulting in a healthier and safer environment, so we can breathe easy.

The different colors, shapes, and forms of mold never cease to amaze Erin. Since she gets to examine an ever-changing assortment of mold every day, she says she’ll never walk away from a day of work without learning something new.

Dr. Norman Moore – Global Director of Scientific Affairs, Abbott

Dr. Norman Moore is the Global Director of Scientific Affairs at Abbott. His company has played a vital role in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic through their diagnostic tests. These tests have had high demand throughout the pandemic, so much so that they had to build an entirely new factory.

Dr. Norman’s job is quite exciting because he shares these groundbreaking tests with people across the world. On any given day, he speaks with many people including members of the CDC, doctors, nurses, thought leaders, and school administrators. As a Global Director of Scientific Affairs, he educates people about all facets of the tests to ensure they are running the tests effectively and following the guidelines to receive accurate results.

Although the pandemic has undoubtedly been challenging, Dr. Norman says it’s also been very rewarding for his team to come together to play a crucial role in fighting the pandemic. Himself and his team of biologists, chemists, engineers, manufacturers, and technicians have brought their strong communication and collaboration skills to help others during this uncertain time.

This gives life to his words, “Science is a lot of communication. The best scientists are the ones who can talk to each other and figure things out together.”

Hands-On Activity: Exploring Cell Membranes and Coronavirus Inactivation

Following the scientists’ video presentations was an interactive hands-on activity, allowing students to see scientific principles exhibited in their own classroom. This year, the activity demonstrated how washing your hands with soap inactivates the coronavirus.

Coronaviruses are surrounded by the same type of membrane that surrounds human cells. To complete this activity, students were first tasked with creating soap-film membranes to mimic the membrane of a virus. They then performed several tests to discover what disturbs and inactivates the membrane. Unsurprisingly, one of the key compounds that does this is soap.

This activity aims to demonstrate that when one washes their hands with soap, the chemicals, bubbles, and foam are able to disturb the virus’ membrane, thereby rendering the virus inactive. This is why scientists recommend washing your hands frequently to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. This activity was fun for students and also acted as a timely, relevant reminder to always wash your hands.

ME Bioscience Day Q&A Sessions

To conclude ME Bioscience Day, we hosted live Zoom Q&A sessions to give students a special opportunity to personally connect with Karlee, Erin, and Dr. Moore. These informative sessions ended with the same question for each of the scientists: “What is the one piece of advice you would give to a middle school student interested in pursuing a career in science?”

Karlee motivated students by simply saying to start now! She said there’s always opportunities to volunteer, no matter what field you’re looking to enter. To illustrate the importance of this advice, Karlee shared her personal story. Ever since she was young, she loved the ocean and knew she wanted to become a marine biologist. She decided to volunteer at an aquarium and was able to gain valuable experience that was aligned with her natural interests. This was tremendously helpful in her career development and a perfect complement to her marine biology education.

Erin encouraged students to try as many things as possible. She shared that while on her journey to becoming a scientist, she did many job shadows and asked numerous questions so she could learn as much as possible. She advised students to stay open minded and curious about the various opportunities available, because you never know what may light you up. She says, “It’s different when you’re in a classroom reading books, but when you’re actually applying the science with your hands or thinking through it with your brain, it’s a totally different experience.”

Similarly, Dr. Norman encouraged students to find their passion. He told students that while studying infectious disease in college, he would do extra classwork because he found it so extremely exciting and fascinating. At that moment, he knew he had found a passion and career that would fulfill him for the rest of his life. He also says it makes the seemingly daunting process of starting college and embarking on a career path much easier if you’re doing something you love.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone who participated in and helped grow ME Bioscience Day – scientists, teachers, principals, parents, students, sponsors, and community members. We appreciate your help as we foster the next generation of scientists in Maine. We look forward to next year!

ME Bioscience Day 2021 Supporters

ME Bioscience Day 2021 Participating Schools

Windham Middle School (Windham)Medomak Middle School (Waldoboro)Mahoney Middle School (South Portland)
Biddeford Middle School (Biddeford)Cape Elizabeth Middle School (Cape Elizabeth)Piscataquis Community Secondary School (Guilford)
Falmouth Middle School (Falmouth)Waynflete School (Portland)Boothbay Region Elementary School (Boothbay Harbor)
Scarborough Middle School (Scarborough)King Middle School (Portland)Lake Region Middle School (Naples)
Greely Middle School (Cumberland)Gray-New Gloucester Middle School (Gray)Wells Junior High (Wells)
Frank H. Harrison Middle School (Yarmouth)Lamoine Consolidated School (Lamoine)Warsaw Middle School (Pittsfield)
Lawrence Junior High (Fairfield)James F. Doughty School (Bangor)Brunswick Junior High (Brunswick)
North Yarmouth Academy (Yarmouth)Lincoln Middle School (Portland)Bonny Eagle Middle School (Buxton)
Lincolnville Central School (Lincolnville)Presque Isle Middle School (Presque Isle)Madison Junior High (Madison)
Indian Township School (Princeton)Stearns Junior High School (Millinocket)Tremont Consolidated School (Bass Harbor)
Saco Middle School (Saco)Great Salt Bay Community School (Damariscotta)Oak Hill Middle School (Sabattus)
Jordan-Small Middle School (Raymond)Molly Ockett School (Fryeburg)Noble Middle School (Berwick)
Middle School of the Kennebunks (Kennebunk)William S. Cohen School (Bangor)Spruce Mountain Middle School (Jay)
York Middle School (York)C.K. Burns School (Saco)Philip W. Sugg Middle School (Lisbon)
Skowhegan Area Middle School (Skowhegan)Winslow Junior High (Winslow)Memorial Middle School (South Portland)
Conners Emerson School (Bar Harbor)South Bristol School (South Bristol)Bristol Consolidated School (Bristol)
Greenville Consolidated School (Greenville)Durham Community School (Durham)Mt. Ararat Middle School (Topsham)
Winslow Elementary School (Winslow)