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Vol. LXIV, No. 11
May 25, 2012
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NIH Inspires Future Scientists at Festival
Dr. John Satterlee describes the brain to Science Festival attendees at a NIDA exhibit, “Brains Up Close.” The 2nd USA Science and Engineering Festival featured interactive fun for all ages.

Dr. John Satterlee describes the brain to Science Festival attendees at a NIDA exhibit, “Brains Up Close.”

The 2nd USA Science and Engineering Festival featured interactive fun for all ages.
SciFest patrons experience “More than Meets the Eye” with NEI’s Dr. Shefa Gordon (l).

SciFest patrons experience “More than Meets the Eye” with NEI’s Dr. Shefa Gordon (l).

What do smashing strawberries, playing in sand and walking, talking mice and carrots have to do with science? Everything, it seems, as hundreds of NIH staff made science fun for the more than 250,000 people who crowded the Washington, D.C. Convention Center for the USA Science & Engineering Festival Finale Expo, Apr. 27-29.

More than 30 exhibits and stage shows from 27 NIH institutes, centers and OD offices featured interactive activities for all ages during the science extravaganza. The Finale Expo brought to a close a 2-month celebration of science that reached schools and students across the area.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins uses music to teach science at the Washington Convention Center in D.C.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins uses music to teach science at the Washington Convention Center in D.C.

Throughout March and April, NIH leaders visited local schools to talk about science. The students at Bladensburg High School were lucky enough to get a guitar performance from NIH director Dr. Francis Collins; Dr. Griffin Rodgers, NIDDK director, spoke at the Langley Education Campus in the District; and NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci visited Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda. These festival events were part of “Nifty Fifty (times 2),” which brought 100 noted science and engineering professionals to area schools. As Rodgers explained to students at Langley, “The more we study science, the more we become more logical thinkers, smarter consumers, more skilled workers and healthier people. For those of you who love science, I encourage you to stick with it through the rest of your education and beyond.”

At the Finale Expo, NIH creativity was on display throughout the convention center. Examples include a second Collins guitar performance of entertaining, educational songs; a cell membrane model of colorful balloons; one staffer dressed as a mouse playfully educating kids about animal research; and another dressed as a giant carrot, talking about nutrition and the sugar content of common foods.

NHGRI’s Dr. Carla Easter (2nd from r) and Melissa Meredith (r) help kids isolate DNA from strawberries.

NHGRI’s Dr. Carla Easter (2nd from r) and Melissa Meredith (r) help kids isolate DNA from strawberries.

“One of the best parts of the festival was seeing families enjoying science together,” said NHGRI’s Dr. Carla Easter. At the NHGRI exhibit “DNA: The Long and Short of It,” children and their parents isolated DNA from more than 20 pounds of strawberries. “At times, the parents seemed to enjoy the activities more than their children did, which just shows that none of us is ever too old to learn something new,” Easter noted.

Shows on the NIH stage also offered science competitions, cooking demonstrations and interviews. Elsewhere, science celebrities Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, hosts of television’s MythBusters, and Bill Nye the Science Guy drew crowds as they described how they use the scientific method in their shows.

Children and teens discussed science careers with NIH researchers at a “Career Encounters” event organized by the Office of Human Resources. “NIH science professionals, from health information managers to DNA researchers, took their work out of the office and connected with youth of all ages,” explained Sarah Crowell of OHR. The activity showed young people that science careers are intriguing and accessible. “I think we inspired some future scientists today,” Crowell concluded.

dozens of booths and exhibits show the scope of SciFest NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers poses with top student William Leech at the Langley Education Campus on Apr. 11.

At left, dozens of booths and exhibits show the scope of SciFest. At right, NIDDK director Dr. Griffin Rodgers poses with top student William Leech at the Langley Education Campus on Apr. 11.

All Photos Except Apr. 11: Bruce Fuchs
Apr. 11 Photo: Ernie Branson


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