Office for University Outreach

Lab Tour Brings CU Science to Life for Local High School Students

Lab Tour Brings CU Science to Life for Local High School Students

There’s something to be said about the power of hands-on science. In August, high school students crowded the lobby of the CU Engineering Center, anxiously awaiting their interactive tour of a biomaterial and tissue-engineering laboratory. In advance of CU-Boulder’s annual Distinguished Research Lecture, Kristi Anseth, PhD, professor of chemical and biological engineering and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, opened her honorable lecture and lab to area high school students eager to learn more about science and engineering. 

“I just love science, everything about it,” declared goggle-clad Alex Garone, a senior at Monarch High School in Louisville, as she and fellow students entered the lab. 
With Anseth’s integral support, a partnership between CU Science Discovery and the Boulder Valley School District’s Science Research Seminar recruited around 50 high school students to tour the Anseth Research Group Lab and attend the Distinguished Research Lecture on Aug. 24. The pre-lecture tour brought tissue engineering and regenerative medicine research to life for the young students.  
Among other things, the visitors learned how to use a pipette, viewed animal stem cells and neurons formed from special microscopes, observed or even touched a porcine heart with their gloved hands, and helped lab techs create a Ralphie the Buffalo-shaped hydrogel. Hydrogels consist of Jell-O like substances and networks of polymer strings that can be used as scaffold to cellular growth and development. The lab focuses on development of biomaterial scaffolds for cell culture and tissue regeneration which can lead to improved medical applications in fixing bone fractures, cartilage damage, diseased heart valves, and more. 
With each passing research station, the lab’s graduate students lit up as they shared their research duties and invited the young students to partake. The activities left an impression on the visitors, who eagerly took turns peering into microscopes and pipetting polymers. 
“I know I want to do something with science (in college) and this just confirms that,” Garone explained after the tour and before nabbing a front row seat with friends for Anseth’s lecture. 
To complete the educational event, the student visitors joined faculty, staff, students, and administrators for the 103rd Distinguished Research Lecture, one of the highest honors CU-Boulder faculty bestow upon a fellow faculty member.
Anseth presented “The Body Shop,” a lecture focused biotechnical tissue engineering that improves medical healing across a wide spectrum, from helping broken bones heal faster to replacing diseased heart valves. The high school visitors, fresh from the lab tour, were well prepared for the subject matter.
“Who in here has made a hydrogel?” Anseth asked the packed lecture hall mid-presentation, and approximately 50 high schoolers’ hands shot up proudly into the air.
Anseth and many of her group members credit the role of mentors in engaging them in science and engineering, and this lab tour and lecture was an opportunity to ignite a spark of excitement amongst area students. 
“It is wonderful to be a faculty member at CU and have the opportunity to play a small role in getting students excited about engineering,” Anseth said. “We need to recruit more of the best and brightest students to our field, and it was wonderful to interact with such an energetic and dedicated group of students.”

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