NSCI Scientists Lead Hands-On Activity to Inspire Girls in STEM
On Tuesday, August 2nd, three scientists from the Neural Stem Cell Institute drove to Pittsfield Massachusetts armed with a Styrofoam box carrying ice and a special hands-on activity, with the goal of giving a group of young women deeper knowledge of the inner workings of the eye.
Drs. Brigitte Arduini, Rebecca Chowdhury, and Liz Fisher brought real pig eyes to the Flying Cloud Institute’s Young Women in Science STEM Summer week. Small groups of young women each gathered around and dissected an eye, learning about the function of each part and how it contributes to vision, while getting a feel, literally, for its construction. Who knew that the eye was filled with a clear jelly-like substance called the vitreous? Girls also simulated how the eye focuses using a Fresnel lens, trying to project a clear image through the lens and onto an index card. Many noticed that the image on the card appeared upside down, which is what happens in the human eye as well! Amazingly, the brain interprets the image so that we perceive the world the right way up.
At the end of the day, many of the future scientists were proud of themselves for participating in the dissection, even though they admitted they were at times a bit grossed out. The NSCI scientists were excited to see the students step out of their comfort zone to explore real biology and to learn using new approaches. Dr. Chowdhury said of the experience: “It was a lot of fun working with the girls and I especially enjoyed their reactions to the pig eyes! It was a great learning experience for us all.” Way to go, future STEM professionals!
The Neural Stem Cell Institute serves as the research arm of the Regenerative Research Foundation (RRF), a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in 2005 by Drs. Sally Temple and Jeffrey Stern.