The American Society for Cell Biology’s (ASCB) new Public Engagement Grants, supported by Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, has selected seven finalists for the 2018 awards cycle. The grantees will receive from $10,000 to $35,000 to realize their bold ideas, with the mission of engaging their local communities in the process of science and increasing public scientific literacy.

This year’s recipients include:

Quyen Aoh of Gannon University has started the Feeding Minds and Families program, which brings together Gannon University faculty, staff, and community partners to encourage interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and related careers in an after-school program at Strong Vincent Middle School in Erie, PA. Students will learn about STEM through interactive, hands-on activities followed by family meal gatherings with local leaders in the STEM fields.

Lorena Benedetti of Yale University will host the Flipped Science Fair in New Haven, CT, where middle school student judges will evaluate presentations from graduate students and postdocs, thus “flipping” the traditional science fair concept. Middle school students will learn about research from real scientists in small groups and be able to ask questions or try hands-on demonstrations. The graduate students and postdocs will be coached to make their science accessible to a general audience while keeping the subject matter exciting, understandable, and relevant.

Third- and fourth-grade students in the city of Baltimore, MD, will be able to participate in an after-school program that blends art and science called Science Outside the Lines (SOTL) created by Molly Gordon of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Gordon aims to use paints, ceramics, ink, and mix-media to reinforce concepts taught within the Baltimore City Public School STEM curriculum. SOTL will partner with a local nonprofit, Art With a Heart, to develop several interactive lessons executed by graduate students and postdocs from Johns Hopkins.

Briana Gregg of the University of California, Davis will pilot a new extension of the university’s K-12 Young Scientist Program called Stockton CAN (Close the Achievement Gap Now). Stockton CAN’s mission is to improve access to science enrichment activities for socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority students. Students will benefit from peer-mentorship and immersive, hands-on science activities while preparing for the 2019 San Joaquin County Science Olympiad.

Daniel Kramer from the University of California, Berkeley has developed a program called the Berkeley Outreach Science Selection that pairs graduate students in the life sciences with a local school for a three-year period. During this time, grad student teams will create customized hands-on scientific demonstrations based on the state’s Next Generation Science Standards and they will train teachers on how to use them to support their science curriculum.

Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko of Toronto’s York University will direct her prize to the Canadian Association for Girls In Science (CAGIS), a volunteer-run science club for girls aged 7-16 that she founded. Chapters hold monthly events where they bring girls to the workplaces of women and men in STEM fields to do fun, hands-on activities. The grant will be used to modernize and increase the organizational efficiency of CAGIS, create a new website and stronger online presence, and secure long-term funding.

Schools in a six-county region of rural Virginia will benefit from a student research network fostered between the Prince Edward County Environmental Molecular Biology Institute (PECEMBI), undergraduate students of Hampden-Sydney College and Longwood University, and life science high school students. The program, developed by Michael Wolyniak of Hampden-Sydney College, pairs undergraduates with faculty mentors who will help them create solutions to bring long-term authentic research experiences to these high schools comprised primarily of students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the STEM disciplines.

“These public engagement projects show the deep commitment of ASCB members to their communities and illustrate, thoughtful, creative approaches to sharing science with a wide range of students,” said ASCB CEO Erika Shugart.“Through the generous support of Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, ASCB is thrilled to be able to provide funding to strengthen and expand these programs.” 

Projects chosen reflect the Science Sandbox mission to “bring science to the people” and were selected by a review committee that consisted of Jill Blackford, Senior Program Associate, Science Sandbox; Jeanne Garbarino, Director, RockEDU Science Outreach; Janet Iwasa, University of Utah School of Medicine, ASCB Public Information Committee; Lee Ligon, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ASCB Public Information Committee Chair; Ashley Rowland, University of Colorado, Boulder, ASCB Committee for Postdocs and Students; Erika Shugart, ASCB CEO; Sarah Weisberg, Chief Scientist, BioBus; and Scott Wilkinson, NIH, ASCB Committee for Postdocs and Students.


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