A day at the Biotech Expo

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Sandra Porter
No one in a life science-related industry or research lab, in Western Washington, is safe at this time of year. Surely, you're joking! No, seriously, there are teachers and science enthusiasts everywhere looking to sign you up! And don't call me "Shirley." Sign me up? That's right, it's time to prepare for the BIOTECH EXPO This is the Western Washington version of the science Olympics! Those science enthusiasts are out scouting for anyone who does something related to science or a life-science industry to act as an advisor (sort a mentor with a lower committment level) to high school students who will be competing in the expo. Some of you may wish to sign up on your own (you can do it here!). Believe me, it's much better to do it that way than wait until a posse of science supporters appears at your door! I mentored three students last year, they all show up in pictures below, along with my kids, and it was fun. They all came to visit me at work one day and I told them about DNA sequencing and bioinformatics, and we talked about their Expo projects. Last year was my first year attending the Expo - and I have a bit more to share: i-418afc4a59abf1e646c24d2eac5e769d-writing.0.jpgToday, I'll be your tour guide on a journey through Biotech Expo. We'll begin our trip in creative writing with the exploration of complicated family ties and genetic entanglements. i-e5702663c79469e1ecb4dfcc3d23152f-computer.jpgNext, we'll look at some modeling activities. The gentlemen on the right used an ecology program with sheep, wolves, and bushes, to simulate what might be happening inside your nose. The sheep represented bacteria or viral particles, the wolves, our immune cells, and the bushes, were the nose cells. These students examined the impact of changing the number of immune cells or the numbers of bacteria on the overall health of the nose. i-22825c41f8e72570df5a04a391e9edad-model.0.jpgAnother modeling project is shown on the left. This model was made by cutting out shapes from some kind of squishy material and sticking wires through them. Very colorful! i-5bda48e7cfaed3b84fcf8b2c7bea0b5b-judging.0.jpgOn the right is one of our high school researchers describing her project to some of the judges. A winner in two categories, her project compared methods for isolating DNA for genotyping and the reproducibility of the different methods. She put her AP statistics class to good use! i-2c87fbffe6c46476f74614e2c7be7ede-reporters.0.jpg"And when you smile for the camera..." Serious drama students are always up for an interview with reporters, especially when they bring a film crew. i-d1225c9df6ba01516745cb7bb1b8288b-ms.jpgToday's tour will have to bypass the popular musical performances, and exceptional projects on journalism, multimedia, teaching, website design, and histology since a day at the Expo passes by quick and our tour is running out of time. Fortunately, we will not miss out on biotech art. On the left, we see a drawing with both the science and consequences of multiple sclerosis. i-566e1cf67e7cd347cb9db905180a3d63-tryps.jpgAnd, on the right, we see a beautiful painting of yellow Trypanosoma gambiense swimming around in a pool of red blood cells. The yellow busses are all lined up and ready to depart. If you listen closely you can hear hands clapping from thousands of parents, thanking the dedicated organizers at the Northwest Association of Biomedical Research, and all researchers and biotech people who volunteered to be mentors or judges. The tour is over . . . until next year.

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