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Students Play Scientists At Salk Labs

Aired 3/2/12 on KPBS News.

The Salk Institute is opening its labs tomorrow to more than 200 San Diego County students and teachers to expose their passion for science.

— The Salk Institute is opening its labs tomorrow to more than 200 San Diego County students and teachers to expose their passion for science.

The 22nd March of Dimes High School Science Day was created to give students the chance to visit some of the world’s leading labs.

Participants from 18 different high schools will be visiting the institute.

The event will have more than 20 interactive laboratory tours where students will participate in experiments and speak to more than 40 scientists.

According to the education specialist for Salk Education Outreach, students will be looking at mouse brains to learn about neuroscience, microscopic worms used in aging research and big microscopes used in the biophotonic center.

Dona Mapston said this is a unique event for the students because typically the labs are closed to the public. Students will be able to ask the scientists about working and studying in the profession.

“This is a once in a lifetime chance for them to come in to the laboratories,” she said. “They will be participating in activities in the lab where they get a chance to see what researchers do on a daily basis, what cutting edge research is going on.”

Mapston also said visiting the institute allows for the students to become engaged and potentially be the next researchers.

“We like to think of the event as a way of inspiring the next generation of scientists and we’ve had some anecdotal evidence over the years.”

She said former students who had participated before have pursued their passion for the science and are either in medical school or a research lab.

Due to the budget cuts in education, Mapston also mentioned that this event is an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience, something they might not have gotten otherwise in the classroom.

“It’s so important for hands-on learning activities and that is one of the things that has been a difficulty in schools,” she said. “The lack of funding and the large class sizes in particular make it very difficult for teachers to really be able to show students hands-on what science is all about.”

Several speakers will address students and teachers at the event, in addition to featured lecturer Dr. Samuel Pfaff from the Gene Expression Laboratory. This year, the institute partnered with the March of Dimes to host the event.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies was founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk.

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