2023 Biotech Day event gets students excited about science
On January 27, more than 270 high school students and teachers representing 13 schools were on hand for Biotech Day at the KU Edwards Campus. Biotech Day is an annual event hosted by the faculty of the Applied Biological Sciences and Biotechnology programs. The day-long event included capstone presentations, a keynote speaker, games, and lab tours.
The senior capstone presentations were a highlight of the day. Nine seniors spent the past semester researching the answers to questions such as “Can ginseng help prevent breast cancer?” and “Can the optimization of cell culture media increase the production of recombinant proteins in the baculovirus/expression system?” The visiting high school students had opportunities to network with the seniors to learn more about their projects and how they can become research apprentice volunteers helping with work in the lab.
“One of the unique things about our KU Edwards Campus program is that seniors get to do interesting and complex research, of their own design, in our labs, which is generally not available at the undergraduate level,” said Randy Logan, program director of Biotechnology. “Biotech Day is a great opportunity to highlight their hard work and share their findings.”
Keynote speaker, Dr. Michael Patterson, program manager at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) in Silver Spring, Maryland, uses advanced research and development programs in support of the national intelligence community. He talked about how biology is a key component to protecting our national security and explained what careers exist for biologists working in biodefense and biosecurity.
Weaponized viruses that cause disease and death can be seen throughout world history, dating back hundreds of years, Patterson said. It is something the government is vigilant about studying, and people at IARPA are continuously developing detections and safeguards to protect against the threat of bioterrorism.
According to Patterson, anyone with passion, integrity, and an intellectual curiosity can find an opportunity to help strengthen the biodefense and biosecurity community.
During this year’s event, he reminded the students of how far technology has come in recent years and how it has shortened the timeline of making important discoveries in labs.
“We now have molecular tools, gene editing tools, and the ability to collect and analyze the data like never before,” Patterson said. “We have a deeper understanding and a greater capability to leverage biology for the benefit of everyone.”
Patterson’s advice to those interested in a career is the science field: Expand your network, build your STEM and communication skills, pursue learning and engaging activities on your own and outside of school, and seek out internships.
Fun and Games
A lively Kahoot game challenged the students as they answered questions about the capstone presentations they’d seen. Courtney Thompson, the winning student from Olathe North’s Biomedical Professions program won a pizza lunch for her class in the coming weeks.
According to Jack Treml, assistant director of the Biotechnology program, games are a great way to get students excited about science and what biotechnology degrees have to offer.
In keeping with the keynote speaker’s theme, Treml created a complex puzzle for students to solve ahead of the event in which genetic material was being used to covertly send messages related to a bioterrorist organization. Among the responses to the puzzle, two stood out as correctly identifying all aspects of the answer. Benjamin Parrack, from the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies, was the first to solve the puzzle and was awarded a $300 certificate, which can be applied to selected KU Edwards Campus classes. Anjali Hocker Singh, from Olathe North, identified all the hidden codes and received a $200 certificate.
The day concluded with tours including a look inside the lab facilities at the KU Edwards Campus.