Remsen Lecture focuses on nanoelectronics for brain science

Charles M. Lieber of Harvard University will present the 71st Remsen Lecture, Thursday, May 12 at 6 p.m. in 101 Remsen Hall. He will deliver the talk “Nanoelectronic Tools for Brain Science”  and will receive the Remsen Award from the Maryland section of the American Chemical Society. The event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served at 5:30 in Room 140 and a reception will follow the lecture, also in Room 140.

Charles M. Lieber from

Charles M. Lieber from

Charles M. Lieber received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Franklin and Marshall College and carried out his doctoral studies at Stanford University, followed by postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology. In 1987 he assumed an Assistant Professor position at Columbia University, embarking on a new research program addressing the synthesis and properties of low-dimensional materials. He moved to Harvard University in 1991 and now holds a joint appointment in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, as the Mark Hyman Professor of Chemistry, and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

He serves as the Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. At Harvard, Lieber has pioneered the synthesis of a broad range of nanoscale materials, the characterization of the unique physical properties of these materials and the development of methods of hierarchical assembly of nanoscale wires, together with the demonstration of applications of these materials in nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, and nanocomputing, as well as pioneering the field of nano-bioelectronics where he has made seminal contributions to biological and chemical sensing, the development of novel nanoelectronic cell probes, and cyborg tissues.

Lieber’s work has been recognized by a number of awards, including the first ever Nano Research Award, Tsinghua University Press/Springer (2013); IEEE Nanotechnology Pioneer Award (2013); Willard Gibbs Medal (2013); Wolf Prize in Chemistry (2012); ACS Inorganic Nanoscience Award (2009); NBIC Research Excellence Award, University of Pennsylvania (2007); Nanotech Briefs Nano 50 Award (2005); ACS Award in the Chemistry of Materials (2004); World Technology Award in Materials (2004 and 2003); Scientific American 50 Award in Nanotechnology and Molecular Electronics (2003); APS McGroddy Prize for New Materials (2003); MRS Medal (2002); Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (2001); NSF Creativity Award (1996); and ACS Award in Pure Chemistry (1992).

Lieber is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors, and Fellow of the American Chemical Society, Materials Research Society, and American Physical Society. He is Co-Editor of Nano Letters and serves on the Editorial and Advisory Boards of a large number of science and technology journals. Lieber also serves on the Technical Advisory Committee of Samsung Electronics. He has published over 380 papers and is the principal inventor on 40 patents. In his spare time, Lieber has been active in commercializing nanotechnology, and founded the nanotechnology company Nanosys, Inc. in 2001 and the nanosensor company Vista Therapeutics in 2007, and nucleated Nantero, Inc. from his laboratory in 2001.

Building a better recipe for 3D printed bones

A Johns Hopkins biomedical engineer at the School of Medicine has found that a blend of natural and man-made materials works best to create a better bone replacement with 3D printing technology. Warren Grayson, an affiliated member of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, reports his findings in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering.

Read more below.


A sample 3-D printed scaffold that matches the lower jaw of a female patient. (Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine)

To make a good framework for filling in missing bone, mix at least 30 percent pulverized natural bone with some special man-made plastic and create the needed shape with a 3-D printer. That’s the recipe for success reported by researchers at The Johns Hopkins University in a paper published April 18 online in ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.

Each year, the Johns Hopkins scientists say, birth defects, trauma or surgery leave an estimated 200,000 people in need of replacement bones in the head or face. Historically, the best treatment required surgeons to remove part of a patient’s fibula (a leg bone that doesn’t bear much weight), cut it into the general shape needed and implant it in the right location. But, according toWarren Grayson, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the report’s senior author, the procedure not only creates leg trauma but also falls short because the relatively straight fibula can’t be shaped to fit the subtle curves of the face very well.

That has led investigators to 3-D printing, or so-called additive manufacturing, which creates three-dimensional objects from a digital computer file by piling on successive, ultrathin layers of materials. The process excels at making extremely precise structures — including anatomically accurate ones — from plastic, but “cells placed on plastic scaffolds need some instructional cues to become bone cells,” says Grayson. “The ideal scaffold is another piece of bone, but natural bones can’t usually be reshaped very precisely.”

In their experiments, Grayson and his team set out to make a composite material that would combine the strength and printability of plastic with the biological “information” contained in natural bone.

They began with polycaprolactone, or PCL, a biodegradable polyester used in making polyurethane that has been approved by the FDA for other clinical uses. “PCL melts at 80 to 100 degrees Celsius (176 to 212 Fahrenheit) — a lot lower than most plastics — so it’s a good one to mix with biological materials that can be damaged at higher temperatures,” says Ethan Nyberg, a graduate student on Grayson’s team.

PCL is also quite strong, but the team knew from previous studies that it doesn’t support the formation of new bone well. So they mixed it with increasing amounts of “bone powder,” made by pulverizing the porous bone inside cow knees after stripping it of cells.

“Bone powder contains structural proteins native to the body plus pro-bone growth factors that help immature stem cells mature into bone cells,” Grayson says. “It also adds roughness to the PCL, which helps the cells grip and reinforces the message of the growth factors.”

The first test for the composite materials was printability, Grayson says. Five, 30 and 70 percent bone powder blends performed well, but 85 percent bone powder had too little PCL “glue” to maintain clear lattice shapes and was dropped from future experiments. “It was like a chocolate chip cookie with too many chocolate chips,” Nyberg says.

To find out whether the scaffolds encourage bone formation, the researchers added human fat-derived stem cells taken during a liposuction procedure to scaffolds immersed in a nutritional broth lacking pro-bone ingredients.

After three weeks, cells grown on 70 percent bone powder scaffolds showed gene activity hundreds of times higher in three genes indicative of bone formation, compared to cells grown on pure PCL scaffolds. Cells on 30 percent bone powder scaffolds showed large but less impressive increases in the same genes.

After the scientists added the key ingredient beta-glycerophosphate to the cells’ broth to enable their enzymes to deposit calcium, the primary mineral in bone, the cells on 30 percent scaffolds produced about 30 percent more calcium per cell, while those on 70 percent scaffolds produced more than twice as much calcium per cell, compared to those on pure PCL scaffolds.

Finally, the team tested their scaffolds in mice with relatively large holes in their skull bones made experimentally. Without intervention, the bone wounds were too large to heal. Mice that got scaffold implants laden with stem cells had new bone growth within the hole over the 12 weeks of the experiment. And CT scans showed that at least 50 percent more bone grew in scaffolds containing 30 or 70 percent bone powder, compared to those with pure PCL.

“In the broth experiments, the 70 percent scaffold encouraged bone formation much better than the 30 percent scaffold,” says Grayson, “but the 30 percent scaffold is stronger. Since there wasn’t a difference between the two scaffolds in healing the mouse skulls, we are investigating further to figure out which blend is best overall.”

Although the use of “decellularized” cow bone has been FDA-approved for clinical use, in future studies, the researchers say, they hope to test bone powder made from human bone since it is more widely used clinically. They also want to experiment with the designs of the scaffolds’ interior to make it less geometric and more natural. And they plan to test additives that encourage new blood vessels to infiltrate the scaffolds, which will be necessary for thicker bone implants to survive.

Other authors of the report include Ben Hung, Bilal Naved, Miguel Dias, Christina Holmes, Jennifer Elisseeff and Amir Dorafshar of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

This work was supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (F31 DE024922), the Russell Military Scholar Award, the Department of Defense, the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund and the American Maxillofacial Surgery Society Research Grant Award.

Press release by Catherine Gara; 443-287-2251; and Shawna Williams; 410-955-8236;

For media inquiries about INBT, contact Mary Spiro at

New technology for Zika vaccine development licensed by INBT researchers

Pharos Biologicals, LLC (Pharos) has been awarded the exclusive worldwide licenses for a patented Lysosome-Associated Membrane Protein (LAMP) DNA vaccine technology, as well as for certain nanotechnologies to deliver the vaccines, by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The worldwide licenses are for use in the development and delivery of vaccines for influenza and flaviviruses.

Pharos was formed in December 2015 by J. Thomas August, M.D., University Distinguished Service Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences and Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology. The initial focus of the company is on the Zika vaccine development, to be followed by vaccines for dengue and influenza viruses.  The company anticipates that it will be ready to begin Phase 1 clinical trials of its Zika vaccine candidate by autumn of 2016.

The Baltimore Sun has reported the news here.

Dr. J. Thomas August (PRNewsFoto/Pharos Biologicals)

Dr. J. Thomas August (PRNewsFoto/Pharos Biologicals)

The LAMP technology was validated commercially in October 2015 when a license awarded by Johns Hopkins to Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc. for allergen vaccines was sold to Astellas, a global pharmaceutical company, for $300 million.

The LAMP technology, invented by Dr. August, represents a breakthrough in the application of DNA vaccines by the use of normal cellular mechanisms to enhance the immune response to the vaccine. Most vaccines use a weakened form of a pathogen in which a live, but reduced virulence version of the virus is introduced into the body. The LAMP DNA vaccine is not a live virus vaccine, has a more rapid development timeline, delivers the pathogen antigen directly to cell proteins that bring about immunological responses, and is highly stable.

The threat that Zika virus poses is growing, with the WHO declaring a state of Public Health Emergency of International Concernon February 1, 2016, and it is expected that travel-associated cases will increase ( The virus can also be spread by sexual transmission, which potentially raises the risk of spread.

Pharos is also supported by research directed by Prof. Hai-Quan Mao PhD in Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering, and the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and an Associate Director of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Mao was the 2015 winner of the Cohen Translational Engineering Award and the Louis B. Thalheimer Award for Translational Research.

Hai-Quan Mao (Mary Spiro/INBT)

Hai-Quan Mao (Mary Spiro/INBT)

David W. Wise, a business executive with sixteen years of C-Level experience and who has been active in the medtech startup and venture capital community in Baltimore as the Venture Advisor to the Abell Foundation for the past several years, serves as Chief Executive Officer of Pharos.

For more information on the LAMP Vaccine technology and Pharos Biologicals, visit

To learn more about Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, visit

Written by Daniel Waldman for Pharos Biologicals.

For media inquiries regarding INBT, contact Mary Spiro at

Why precision medicine is important for our future

2000px-High_accuracy_Low_precision.svgPrecision medicine is the theme for the 10th annual symposium of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Nano Biotechnology, Friday, April 29, 2016 at 9 a.m. in the Owens Auditorium at the School of Medicine. This year’s event is cohosted by Johns Hopkins Individualized Health Initiative (also known as Hopkins inHealth) and features several inHealth affiliated speakers.

By developing treatments that overcome the limitations of the one-size-fits-all mindset, precision medicine will more effectively prevent and thwart disease. Driven by data provided from sources such as electronic medical records, public health investigations, clinical studies, and from patients themselves through new point-of-care assays, wearable sensors and smartphone apps, precision medicine will become the gold standard of care in the not-so-distant future. Before long, we will be able to treat and also prevent diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and cancer with regimes that are tailor-made for the individual.

Hopkins inHealth is a signature initiative of Johns Hopkins University’s $4.5 billion Rising to the Challenge campaign is a collaboration among three institutions: the University, the Johns Hopkins Health System, and the Applied Physics Laboratory. These inHealth researchers combine clinical, genetic, lifestyle, and other data sources to create innovative tools intended to improve decision-making in the prevention and treatment of a range of conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, and infectious disease. The goal is to “provide the right care to the right person at the right time.”

Of course, the idea of bringing together diverse disciplines to solve problems is not a new concept at INBT. The speakers we have assembled for our talks this morning are uniquely qualified to examine precision medicine from many angles: engineering, basic sciences, clinical experience, and public health.

Our symposium this year is also supported by contributions from Forest City and Nikon, who donated our poster prizes. The agenda for Friday is below. Please make plans to come for all of it. Further details and a link to register your poster title can be found here Details and a link to register can be found here:

Peter Searson, Joseph R. and Lynn C. Reynolds Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

Denis Wirtz, Vice Provost for Research; T.H. Smoot Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Sharon Gerecht, Kent Gordon Croft Investment Management Faculty Scholar, Associate Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Hai-Quan Mao, Professor, Materials Science and Engineering

2016 Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology Annual Symposium and 10th Anniversary Celebration
Theme: Precision Medicine
Friday, April 29
Speakers:  9 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.; Owens Auditorium
Poster Session: 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.; Owens Pre-function room and corridor


8:00 – 9:00 a.m.        Registration/Continental Breakfast/Networking

9:00 – 9:05 a.m.        Welcome from Directors

9:05 – 9:35 a.m.        Revolutions in Measurement and Analysis: Powering Discovery in Human Diseases
Antony Rosen. M.B. Ch.B., MD

9:35 – 10:05 a.m.      Precision Medicine In Oncology:  Applications And Examples
Kenneth Pienta, MD

10:05 – 10:35 a.m.    Individualized Care And Prevention: Decoding The Hidden Health States
Zheyu Wang, PhD

10:35 – 10:45 a.m.    Coffee Break

10:45 – 11:15 a.m.    Development And Applications Of Polygenic Risk Prediction Models For Precision Prevention
Nilanjan Chatterjee, PhD

11:15 – 11:45 a.m.    Epigenetics At The Crossroads Of Genetics And Environment In Common Human Disease
Andrew Feinberg, MD, MPH

11:45 a.m. – 12: 15 p.m. Population and Individualized Health: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Scott Zeger, PhD

12:15 – 1:30 p.m.   Lunch Break; Room 111
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.     Poster Session A
2:30 – 3:30 p.m.     Poster Session B
3:30 p.m.                Prize Presentation
4:00 p.m.                Adjourn


Submit ideas to Hopkins inHealth Shark Tank by April 20

Are you developing the next big health app?  Do you have an idea for an app that can improve health care delivery?

A five minute pitch.  Five minutes of feedback.  A chance to win $5,000.

Join Hopkins inHealth for a home town version of Shark Tank with experts from the Bloomberg School of Public Health, School of Medicine, Whiting School of Engineering, Technology Ventures and Johns Hopkins Health Systems. The top three to five ideas will be awarded up to $5,000 each.

Slide1If you are a graduate student, medical student, postdoctoral fellow, or medical resident or fellow, this is your chance to share your innovative idea, receive feedback, and possibly win funds to kick start the development or commercialization of your app.

Participation Details

Submit a one-page summary of your app to Risha Zuckerman,, by Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 11:59pm. The summary must include the following sections:

·      Impact: A concise description of the relevant background information and significance of the project.

·      Targets: A succinct statement of the project’s aims and anticipated outcomes.

Action Plan: A short statement of your next steps or commercialization plan.
Budget: A brief outline of how the $5,000 award would be spent.
The Hopkins inHealth team will review your summary to determine whether to invite you to proceed to the next stage and present before the panel. Presentation times will be assigned.



April 20, 2016:           Deadline for submission

April 29, 2016:           Notification of assigned presentation time slot

May 4, 2016:               10:00am – 12:00pm; [LOCATION TBD]; Day 1 of event

May 5, 2016:               1:00 – 3:00pm; [LOCATION TBD]; Day 2 of event

May 11, 2016:             Announcement of awardees


About Hopkins inHealth:

The mission of Hopkins inHealth is to support research that will, with increasing accuracy and precision, define, measure, and communicate each person’s unique health state and the trajectory along which it is changing, and to develop these discoveries into new methods that can be used to inform decision-making in clinical and public health practice. The goal of this individualization of health care is to reach a state of optimal health for every individual, achieved through a continuum of efforts that span health promotion, disease prevention, early detection, and effective intervention.

Professional development seminar on theranostics April 5

What are theranostics?

Experimenting with human prostate cancer cells and mice, cancer imaging experts at Johns Hopkins say they have developed a method for finding and killing malignant cells while sparing healthy ones.The method, called theranostic imaging, targets and tracks potent drug therapies directly and only to cancer cells.

Martin Pomper

Martin Pomper

According to Martin G. Pomper, the William R. Brody Professor of Radiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the technique relies on binding an originally inactive form of drug chemotherapy, with an enzyme, to specific proteins on tumor cell surfaces and detecting the drug’s absorption into the tumor. The binding of the highly specific drug-protein complex, or nanoplex, to the cell surface allows it to get inside the cancerous cell, where the enzyme slowly activates the tumor-killing drug.

Pomper, an affiliated faculty member of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology (INBT), is director of the Small Animal Imaging Resource Program (SAIRP) at Johns Hopkins and Deputy Director of the In Vivo Cellular and Molecular Imaging Center (ICMIC). He will will present the INBT professional development seminar, “Forays into Theranostics,” at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 5 in Croft G40 on the Homewood campus. Light refreshments will be served.

Seating is limited. RSVP to

Media inquires should be directed to INBT science writer Mary Spiro at


The ethics of research supply purchasing in the life sciences

When people think about animal use and testing as it applies to research, especially in the life sciences, typically they imagine a scientist in a lab coat, running some experiment on a mouse or a rat. While this scenario is certainly a big part of animal involvement in life sciences research, another big part that often goes unnoticed or under-discussed is animal involvement in production of lab supplies.

For example, although some proteins can be non-invasively isolated or synthetically produced, many still have to be made in an animal and later isolated from them, commonly from serum, but quite possibly from other sources as well. Collagen, for instance, is a fibrous protein that makes up 25 to 35 percent of whole body content, and it can be used in many biological coatings because if its ability to crosslink and the fact that many cell types have a high affinity with collagen. When cultured on collagen, cells are more likely to stick.

In our lab, collagen is commonly used in the production of the microfluidic device that is being developed to mimic the properties of the blood-brain barrier. The collagen that we often purchase and use is rat-tail collagen, that is, collagen that has been isolated from the tendons found in the tails of rats. Other products include cell lines isolated from animals, and serums isolated from their blood.  Fetal bovine serum is also very commonly used in cell culture media, without which, cells would not survive in culture.

Another animal-derived lab product are antibodies. Antibodies are produced in animals by exposing them to a target protein. After the animal’s immune system recognizes the foreign protein, it produces antibodies against it, which can then be isolated and purified. Rabbits, goats, mice, rats, horses, and dogs are specifically bred for the production of antibodies.

Unfortunately not all antibody production facilities are kind to the animals they use. Recently, the USDA investigated Santa Cruz Biotechnology, one of the most prominent suppliers of antibodies for research purposes. SCBT has had 31 animal abuse violations filed against it in the past, but when the USDA sent a team to investigate in January 2016, thousands of rabbits and goats were gone, leading some to suspect that they may have been killed. (See story from Nature here.)

In many labs, antibodies are widely used. Decisions on where to buy antibodies are usually based on price and quality, because some antibodies will have higher affinities to the target proteins in question than the same antibody from another supplier. We don’t always consider ethics and company practices when we make our buying decision, but perhaps we should.

These days, since many alternate suppliers of antibodies exist it stands to reason to bring issues like animal treatment into the equation. This applies not just in the case of antibody purchasing, but in any situation where a supply is purchased for everyday lab use after having been produced by an animal. Unethical behavior that can exist behind the scenes in science and research will force researchers to do their due diligence when considering their sources for laboratory supplies. We do have a choice, and we can exercise it.

About the author: Luisa Russell is a fourth year PhD candidate in the Searson lab and also in the NTCR training program, whose research focuses on developing new strategies for cancer drug delivery using nanoparticles.

Media inquires should be directed to INBT’s science writer Mary Spiro,

Posters sought for INBT’s 10th symposium April 29

Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology celebrates its tenth anniversary at their annual symposium with the theme of Precision Medicine. Registration is now open for attendees and poster registration. All nanobio related research topics are encouraged to submit poster titles.

2000px-High_accuracy_Low_precision.svgThe symposium will take place at Owens Auditorium (located between CRB I and CRB II at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on Friday, April 29. Talks begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at 12:30. A poster session in the auditorium lobby and corridor will occur from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Prizes will be offered for the top poster presenters, and the first 60 posters registrants will be invited to attend a special luncheon at 12:30.


To register to attend or to register a poster title for the symposium, click here. All nanobio related topics and students from all disciplines and departments are invited to participate. The symposium is free and open to the Johns Hopkins University community and select other academic institutions. A registration fee may apply to other attendees. 

NOTE: Posters should be 3′ by 4′ or no larger than 4′ by 4′ in size and should be in place by 1:15 p.m.. Poster presenters will find out where their poster is to be displayed on the day of the symposium.

According to the National Institutes of Health:

Precision medicine is an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person. While some advances in precision medicine have been made, the practice is not currently in use for most diseases. That’s why on January 20, 2015, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative® (PMI) in his State of the Union address. Through advances in research, technology and policies that empower patients, the PMI will enable a new era of medicine in which researchers, providers and patients work together to develop individualized care.


The AGENDA for the day is as follows:

Help INBT celebrate 10 years of fostering and facilitating collaborative multidisciplinary research across all divisions and departments of the University.

Launched in 2006, INBT focuses its efforts in research on the basic biological sciences, the clinical sciences, and public health. In the basic biological sciences, INBT supports research exploiting nanoscience to advance our understanding of cellular and molecular dynamics at the molecular level. In the clinical sciences, INBT supports research to develop novel methods for diagnostics and therapeutics. In public health, INBT supports research to understand the potential impact of nanoscience and nanotechnology on health and the environment, as well as on using nanoscience to solve environmental problems.

Direct media inquiries to Mary Spiro at

Professional development seminar: demystifying biostatistics

Biostatistics can be a mysterious concept to many people, even to some clinical researchers. In fact, biostatistics can sound like a foreign language at times. Nevertheless, biostatistics and data analyses are critically important and integral to clinical and translation research across several disciplines, especially as scientific data have become larger and more complex in recent years.

2000px-Fisher_iris_versicolor_sepalwidth.svgIn this talk, presented by the Institute for NanoBioTechnology, we will demystify biostatistics by providing concrete examples commonly encountered in our interactions with Johns Hopkins University scientists. We will give details about the data analytical services currently provided by collaborators working at the Johns Hopkins Biostatistics Center, and are also available to answer specific questions about how the Biostatistics Center might be of help with analyses for your particular scientific questions.

Dr. Richard Thompson and Dr. Gayane Yenokyan from the Department of Biostatics will present on March 23, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. in 102 Mason Hall  (the Alumni Boardroom). Seating is limited, please RSVP to by March 22. Light refreshments will be served.

Promoting STEM education to Baltimore’s young people

Beyond acquiring data and publishing results, the graduate school experience should be more focused on being able to learn and understand new things from our daily experiments. It is also our responsibility as scientists to be able to share this knowledge to the public.

STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

For the last few years at Johns Hopkins University, I am very happy to have had the chance to be a part of volunteer programs geared towards helping  young people in Baltimore’s schools. Two of those are specifically for promoting STEM (that is, science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in elementary and high school students: STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES) and Women in Science and Engineering Program (WISE). I think both are really good programs.

I’ve met mentors and staff that are very dedicated to running these programs, and I highly recommend that graduate students participate in these mentoring opportunities. Seeing the students’ output at the end of the program and how they developed their skills within a short time is very fulfilling. It’s also surprising how I learned so much from teaching them, because it somehow requires me to be able to explain my research to these kids.

SABES, a five-year project that involves nine Baltimore City elementary and elementary/middle schools, is aimed at improving the city’s STEM curriculum and delivery in third through fifth graders. Mentors come to afterschool programs, and help students in their inquiry-based projects. The goal is to help the kids think in both a scientific and engineering way in the projects.

It’s so nice to see that the kids are very excited, and it’s very easy to get them involved in all the activities. I was surprised at first as to how competitive they are with each other, which I think drives them to be more interested and perform better in the assigned activities. I like how the program provides hands-on experience to the mentors in teaching the kids and how the structure of the program lets the kids think on their own rather than dictating what they should do.

Spring 2015 STEM Showcase organized by SABES.

Spring 2015 STEM Showcase organized by SABES (Used with permission)

The WISE program started in 2005 as a collaboration between Garrison Forrest School and Johns Hopkins University. The goal is to encourage female high school students from Baltimore to pursue their interest in science and engineering. The program allows these students to work in a research lab in Hopkins with their graduate student mentors. At the end, they were asked to give a presentation about their work in front of the other students, graduate student mentors and professors. I had a chance to mentor one student last Spring, and she is now accepting admission offers from colleges and universities and is planning to major in biology.

Overall, I think these programs are helpful to both the students and the mentors—students get more exposure to STEM activities while the mentors get to take a break from research by talking to the kids and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm in science with these students. Usually, grad students would have a couple of coffee breaks within a day; why not be a mentor for a few hours per week and spend time with young kids to talk about science? Who knows, you might be helping a child become a future scientist or engineer from these simple things. It’s definitely, worth your time.

Herdeline Ann Ardoña is a fourth year INBT graduate student in the Johns Hopkins Department of Chemistry working in Professor J. D. Tovar’s lab. She is co-advised by Professor Hai-Quan Mao.

Media inquiries should be directed to INBT science writer Mary Spiro at mspiroATjhuDOTcom.