Article written by: Sanjana Gupta, 2023 communications intern
Twelve enthusiastic students from the West Palm Beach Boys & Girls Club embarked on a science-focused field trip on July 13, 2023, which led to an unexpected revelation: their growing passion for science.
The group, including students ages 11 to 14, met with a postdoctoral researcher and neuroscientist from The Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology located in Jupiter, Florida, Abhishek Sadhu, Ph.D. The encounter left the students inspired and excited about possible careers in the world of science.
Sadhu described his studies into how long-term memories are formed through biochemical processes. Sadhu helped the students understand complex concepts like DNA, DNA replication, and the role of RNA. He showed them how memory consolidation and retrieval occur though these fundamental biological processes. Students’ eyes were opened as they began to understand DNA’s genetic information-carrying role. They heard how mistakes in DNA replication can result in genetic mutations, and how DNA replication processes maintain the reliable duplication of genetic material throughout cell division.
The role of RNA functioning as an intermediary between DNA and the construction of functional proteins was further highlighted by Sadhu’s presentation. Students saw the connection between chemical processes and the creation of long-term memories.
The presentation impressed both students and their advisors. Advisor Kevin Brown from the West Palm Beach Boys & Girls Club emphasized how the event cultivated the minds of the participants.
“It exposes our youth to the limitless opportunities that are within their grasp. Things that may have started as an idea that has now become a part of their vision,” Brown said.
Prior to the field trip, he said, some of these students had vague notions or fleeting interest
s in science. Through this eye-opening field trip, those ideas evolved into a real possibility for their future careers. The field trip acted as a catalyst for their curiosity and ignited a passion for science within them, Brown said.
It allowed them to witness firsthand how science is not confined to textbooks and classrooms but is an aspect of the world around them. By engaging with a postdoctoral researcher, the students gained insight into cutting-edge neuroscience research and saw potential to contribute to the scientific community themselves one day.
Sadhu also had many emotions about the outreach event, saying it was exciting “to share research with students and help them think about building a research career.”
He cares a great deal about developing an interest in science among students.
“When I was in high school, we never were given such opportunities. I wish back then there were these events, which would have shown me my love for science much sooner,” he said.
By instilling an interest in science in students, such field trips plant seeds for a future generation of scientists, researchers, and innovators who can contribute to the betterment of society and the world at large.
The field trip for the Boys & Girls Club underscored the institute’s commitment to science education for all, regardless of background or resources, said organizer Rosie Albarran Zeckler, manager of academic support services at The Herbert Wertheim UF Scripps Institute for Biomedical Innovation & Technology.
“We are committed to providing students with more of these experiences, fulfilling our mission to provide outstanding educational opportunities to inspire and train the next generation of scientists,” Albarran Zeckler said.