8 February 2017

Danstem Labs Full of Young Science Talents


On February 6, 20 researchers picked up 60 anxious teenagers at the Maersk Tower and took them on a day’s journey in stem cell research. The day was an example of DanStem's elaborate outreach efforts to young science talents and the public.

DanStem’s scientists are involved in outreach events throughout the year, but this Monday, the audience was a young group of extra motivated students from the Science Talent Program. The students are part of a two-year science camp series tailored for talented students from upper-secondary schools all over Denmark. One of the program’s main aims is to give the students the motivation to improve their scientific skills and maybe lead the next generation of scientists.

DanStem’s professor Joshua Brickman introduced the students to the essence of stem cell research through a panel lecture. “Do your homework, this is your ticket to travel the world!”, professor Brickman conclusively told the students. Thus warmed up, they were led to a lab for hands-on sessions led by PhD-Fellows and postdocs in six different lab stations.

”Hell, it’s a baby mouse!”
The student’s seemed eager to get their lab coats on and hands dirty. ”We removed little baby chickens from eggs! Tiny ones. They were alive!” and ”Hell, it’s a baby – a baby mouse!”, some exclaimed to others when the groups of students rotated stations.

May from Borupgaard Gymnasium in Ballerup had a great experience getting to work in a real lab:
”It’s great that we get to try things ourselves and not just look at pictures as in school. We saw an open mouse and we took an embryo out of its uterus and saw what it looks like in the early stages of pregnancy. The researchers were good at explaining everything – maybe because they are used to having to learn things”.

Christoffer from Rosborg Gymnasium in Vejle said he could see himself going after a career in science one day:

”It’s fantastic to get insight into how scientists really operate and what options one has. And stem cell research is physics, chemistry and biology in one – that’s fun! It’s difficult, but it’s easier when you’re very interested. I could imagine being a researcher myself”, he said.

Contributing to the Public Knowledge about Stem Cell Research
DanStem Postdoc Ulf Thimann said some of the exercises with the students are actually common procedures in the DanStem labs:

“We have human embryonic stem cells growing in a little cell culture dish, and we explained what they’re used for, and what happens when you change the nutrient media on top of the cells. That is something we do every day because the cells need fresh food – fresh medium. It’s actually quite trivial, but because you need to have sterility, it becomes a pretty complicated procedure.”

DanStem PhD Fellow: Carla Alexandra Carvalho Gonçalves was impressed with the student’s interest:

”The students where very enthusiastic and asked a bunch of questions. I think this can completely change the their views on stem cell research and perhaps inspire them.”

Postdoc Ulf Thimann adds:
“It’s not just about inspiring them to want to be scientists it’s also about contributing to the public knowledge about stem cell research. It’s a field with a lot of ethical debate and a lot of people are fighting about it without knowing what it’s about, so I think it’s a good idea to give people a feeling of what is happening at these labs.“

DanStem often hosts students in their labs, arrange events and visit schools.

“We are part of the community and our vision to interact, train, mentor and teach, and our scientists are always ready to answer questions.“, Naomi Dayan, DanStem Senior Advisor, PhD & Project Manager explained.

In the six lab stations the students explored:

  • Mouse development where they could dissect a mouse embryo and learn about different tissues
  • Worms as model organism in developmental biology research and examined anatomical details at a single-cell level, and the ease to apply sophisticated molecular genetic techniques 
  • Stem Cells and learned about human embryonic stem cells and their potential to treat diseases
  • Chicks as research model aiming to isolate a living chicken embryo and learn how to stage its developmental age 
  • Frog embryos and saw the various developmental stages from 1-cell to tadpole. 
  • Organoids and learned how to model organogenesis in the dish and computationally. In specific conditions, cells can form miniature versions of organs – organoids – that serve as models of development and disease 

The event was organized by DanStem Research and Outreach Coordinator Simone Wenkel.

On March 16, DanStem visits Carolineskolen; a Jewish private school in Northern Copenhagen for another day of spiking the interest for science among young people.

Read more

DanStem: Communication and Outreach

The Science Talent Program