The Srinivasan Lab has developed a strong relationship with its community by involving high school students and other audiences in its laboratory research. The lab believes in sharing the practical implications of science to the public in order to drive passion for innovation and discovery. The goal is to develop genuine enthusiasm for science. We feel it is of the utmost importance to get students into the lab as early as possible to spark and keep their interest in scientific research and the STEM fields. To date, there have been eleven students in either high school or middle school who have done part-time research in the lab over the summers. Our hope is that students will go back to their respective institutions with excitement about their experience in order to promote STEM and research in their home communities.
The Srinivasan Lab participates in the annual Touch Tomorrow science and technology festival hosted by WPI and NASA. During the 2013 event, the Nematode Citizen Science Project was introduced. In 2014, visitors had the chance to observe and interact with C. elegans in addition to learning how to extract DNA from strawberries. In 2015 and 2016, exhibit visitors were also introduced to GFP and how we use the protein to tag cells and areas of the worm that are of interest. The Touch Tomorrow website can be found here.
Every May since 2013, the Srinivasan Lab has participated in a program organized by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation that exposes high school students to STEM majors and careers. Hands on laboratory activities, including working with nematodes and learning about the relationship between genes, proteins, sensory stimuli, and animal behaviors, introduces students to the field of Biotechnology. The MassBioEd website can be found here.
WPI Summer Camps
Summer 2022 is the eighth time that Dr. Srinivasan lead the LAUNCH Biology summer camp program that is hosted on the WPI campus each year. This program invites 20 rising 9th and 10th grade students to partake in a week-long biology camp. In the Summer of 2023, the lab also hosted Frontiers Neuroscience, a two-week camp for 10-12th graders to dive deeper into scientific discovery. During the camp, the students do experiments in a real laboratory setting and practice biological theory through online lectures and live simulations. They complete activities that allow them to learn about a wide array of topics within the field of biology. These lessons begin with the “big picture” point of view concerning what biology and biotechnology are and eventually hone in on specifics such as GMOs or ecotoxicology. More information about WPI’s summer camps can be found here.
One of the best ways to excite students about science is to speak to them on a level that is applicable to their current knowledge. Dr. Srinivasan has spent time guest speaking at different places around the local community including Wachusett Regional High School, Millbury High School, and Millbury Junior High School. Each presentation was suited to the age of the audience and the content featured how we use C. elegans to understand chemical communication and the implications this has on human social disorders. In the middle schools, he spoke more generally of the role that STEM education has on the world, and how our research specifically includes many aspects of the STEM curriculum. The Local Boy Scout Troop also took a field trip to the lab in order for them to work towards earning their Scholarship merit badges. The students sat for a mini-lecture on our laboratory’s research with content that was tailored to their understanding and grade level. These scouts had the opportunity to ask questions about the work that we do and also learned how to be a good scholar.
Srinivasan Lab continues to accept several researchers into the lab that are below the college level, including high school and middle school students. These students are encouraged to come up with their own projects involving C. elegans, but also receive special attention while they are in the lab in order to develop their lab skills. Each student is involved with a different project and has a mentor as a point of contact throughout their time in the lab.
Our Nematode Citizen Science Project collaborates with the Central Massachusetts community, which has donated soil from local backyards. Learn more here!