ME Bioscience Day 2022 Goes Hybrid

ME Bioscience Day offers both in-person and virtual programming to provide students with a unique opportunity to learn from esteemed life science professionals

Each November, the BioME team and Maine middle 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 7th annual event took place throughout the week of November 14, 2022.

My name is Billie Cary and I am BioME’s new Education Programs Manager. When I started in my position this past spring, Maine Bioscience Day was one of the programs that excited me most about this job…. and it did not disappoint! ME Bioscience Day is currently BioME’s largest educational program which connects life science professionals with Maine middle school students to inspire the next generation of our industry.

Traditionally, scientists and life science professionals volunteer to visit local middle school classrooms to show students what their day-to-day career is like and how many opportunities they have to discover the right fit for their future. In recent years, the event went virtual to accommodate remote learning. In 2022, ME Bioscience Day took a hybrid approach, with many classrooms participating virtually, but also testing the waters for in-person programming bringing volunteers into a few schools.

Students were asked: When you think of a job in science, do you picture someone in a lab coat pouring over a microscope? Someone using a computer to make data models? Someone playing music to stimulate brain activity? Maine’s life science sector is thriving, offering diverse fields of study, a myriad of career opportunities, and limitless potential for growth. A career in the life sciences can take many forms, and students are able to receive education and training right here in Maine. ME Bioscience Day allows students to learn about the industry right from the source, while hopefully having a little fun with science along the way.

ME Bioscience Day by the numbers

14

Counties participating in 2022

46

Schools participating in 2022

6,700

Students participating in 2022

40

Volunteers participated in 2022

Virtual Programming: Scientists’ video presentations

The virtual program began with video presentations from Melissa Maginnis, PhD, Professor & Director of Maginnis Lab at University of Maine, Colleen Mayberry, PhD, Post Doctoral Scientists at The Jackson Laboratory, and Brian Harris, Co-Founder & CEO of MedRhythms. 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. Roughly 3,500 students participated virtually.

Virtual Hands-On Activity: Folding Protein Channels

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

BioME provided a lesson plan and materials for a hands-on activity pertaining to proteins and folding protein channels. There was a brief slideshow giving an overview of proteins and what they do for students who may not have encountered the topic in class yet, as well as extension activities suggested at the end for anyone who wanted to explore the topic further.

In-Person Programming

40 amazing Maine life science professionals volunteered their time to come speak to middle school classrooms and present a hands-on activity linked to their research. More than 3,200 students participated with an in-person volunteer.

In-Person Hands-On Activities

Louise Brogan and Stephen Barton of Yokogawa Fluid Imaging Technologies visited Lincoln Middle School in Portland. Yokogawa builds a scientific instrument that allows researchers, in a variety of fields (drinking water, ocean research, pharmaceutical research, and industrial applications) to look at particles in fluid. They showed students the power of their instrument through looking at a local pond water sample and a water sample from the turtle tank in the classroom.

Volunteers from the MaineHealth Institute for Research had a great time presenting to the 6th graders at Scarborough Middle School. Three MHIR teams shared their career paths in STEM, and led hands-on activities to help students understand different aspects of biomedical research. One MHIR group shared a mock clinical trial that included assigning students to a “Researcher” or “Participant” group, going through the consent process, doing a tasting experiment with cilantro, and reviewing data. Another group did a PTC tasting activity to understand genetic traits, followed by genetic traits bingo. The third team taught the students about cardiovascular research, showing tissues under a microscope and displaying several heart models, along with interactive activities to help them understand how the heart works.

Susan Woods, MD, MPH visited Brunswick Junior High. Woods, a physician, researcher, and entrepreneur, used the full period for each class for an interactive conversation about technology, digital health and innovation. Students were asked to list software and technologies they used, rank which are used most frequently, and rank which were most helpful to them. Recognizing that these lists were not the same, they had a spirited discussion about pros and cons, as well about quality and privacy, of popular apps and websites. Students heard about digital health services and digital therapies, and then discussed their views of what innovation means and why invention and improvement are so important. Students were able to try a virtual reality therapy for pain; many enjoyed experiencing the tool for relaxation and how they could distract themselves from not feeling well.

Volunteers from the University of New England School of Pharmacy also visited Brunswick Junior High for ME Bioscience Day. Abby Blyler and Ali Newcombe, both fourth year Pharmacy students, made hand sanitizer with the sixth-grade students. They talked about how hand sanitizer works and how it compares to hand washing. Abby and Ali explained the various ingredients that make up hand sanitizer and why each component is important. “Pharmaceutical elegance” was also a topic of discussion as students labeled their own bottles and took pride in the product they helped to create. During the Covid pandemic pharmacists at UNE were called upon to compound hand sanitizer amid the shortage. The volunteers had a great day sharing their skills and compounding hand sanitizer with the students at Brunswick Junior High!

Stephanie Nichols of the University of New England met with 6th graders at Biddeford Middle School to discuss the career of a psychiatric & substance use disorder clinical pharmacist. They discussed everything from required education to day-to-day patient care activities to pharmacist prescribing authority and more.

Volunteers from NorDx visited both Brunswick Junior High and Windham Middle School. Stephanie Lindvall and Martica Birrell presented an introduction to clinical laboratory science, common jobs in the lab industry, and the importance of laboratory testing for patient care. Brunswick and Windham students tried their hand at being Medical Laboratory Scientists by being blood cell detectives and performing chemical tests on “urine”.

Feedback from both teachers and volunteers has been amazing and I am excited to begin planning for ME Bioscience Day 2023! Next year, I am hoping to reach even more students and offer more Maine life science professionals the rewarding opportunity to inspire Maine students.

Follow-Up: MSSM Summer School Scholarships

As a follow up to ME Bioscience Day 2022, 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 2022. Learn more

ME Bioscience Day 2022 Supporters

ME Bioscience Day 2022 Participating Schools

Biddeford Middle School, Biddeford Bonny Eagle Middle School, Buxton Boothbay Region Elementary School, Boothbay Harbor
Bristol Consolidated School, Bristol Brunswick Junior High, Brunswick Caribou Community School, Caribou
Conners Emerson School, Bar Harbor Durham Community School, Durham Frank H. Harrison Middle School, Yarmouth
Gorham Middle School, Gorham Gray-New Gloucester Middle School, Gray Great Salt Bay Middle School, Damariscotta
Greely Middle School, Cumberland Greenville Consolidated School, Greenville James F. Doughty School, Bangor
Jordan-Small Middle School, Raymond Lamoine Consolidated School, Lamoine Lawrence Junior High, Fairfield
Lincoln Middle School, Portland Lincolnville Central School, Lincolnville Loranger Middle School, Old Orchard Beach
Mahoney Middle School, South Portland Medomak Middle School, Waldoboro Memorial Middle School, South Portland
Middle School of the Kennebunks, Kennebunk Molly Ockett School, Fryeburg Mt. Ararat Middle School, Topsham
Noble Middle School, Berwick North Yarmouth Academy, Yarmouth Oak Hill Middle School, Sabattus
Phillip W. Sugg Middle School, Lisbon Presque Isle Middle School, Presque Isle Saco Middle School, Saco
Sanford Middle School, Sanford Scarborough Middle School, Scarborough Skowhegan Area Middle School, Skowhegan
Spruce Mountain Middle School, Jay Tremont Consolidated School, Bass Harbor Warsaw Middle School, Pittsfield
Wells Junior High, Wells William S. Cohen School, Bangor Windham Middle School, Windham
Winslow Elementary School, Winslow Winslow Junior High, Winslow York Middle School, York

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