The CBR Outreach Program: Inspiring Generations through Science

By Bronwyn Lyons, Graduate Student, Strynadka Lab         

At the Centre for Blood Research (CBR), a team of dedicated trainees who are passionate about sharing science with others, have the unique opportunity to do just that, through the CBR’s Outreach program. Outreach Team members can get involved in many exciting activities including the CBR Blood Labs Program, CBR facility tours, the Elder Scholar lecture series, and special events such as the annual Science World Girls and STEAM event. Want to learn more about these events and how members of our team are inspiring others through science? Read on!

The CBR Blood Labs Program brings hands-on science activities to classrooms across the Lower Mainland. The programs are designed to expand on the curriculum taught by teachers. Trainees lead activities such as DNA extraction or ‘crime scene investigations’ based on blood typing. Trainees also have the opportunity to develop their own activities with assistance and guidance from the Outreach Team. Having CBR trainees lead the activities allows students to interact one on one with professionals who are active scientific researchers. For the trainees, it is an opportunity to gain valuable teaching experience while fine tuning communication skills and inspiring young minds.

Volunteers at the Science World’s Girls and STEAM event in November 2019

Kate Sedivy-Haley, a PhD candidate in the Hancock lab, had this to say about her experience leading a CBR Blood Lab: “Outreach is a great way to practice presentation skills – you build confidence and learn how to answer questions. In one ‘Patient Zero’ lab we got into a conversation about why the First Nations were so devastated by European disease. It was an unexpected direction, but really neat to help students make connections between different things that they had learned.”

In addition to visiting classrooms, trainees from the Outreach Team can host tours of their labs. These tours give elementary and high-school students the opportunity to visit the cutting-edge research facilities at the CBR. Trainees lead a group of students through their lab, discuss instruments and techniques, and may even allow students to participate in a few demos. These opportunities pop up several times throughout the year, so watch out for them in your e-mail!
This past November, the CBR Outreach Team in collaboration with Genome BC designed and facilitated an activity at the Science World Girls and STEAM event. The activity focused on infectious diseases and highlighted topics such as genotyping, antibiotic resistance, and the importance of proper handwashing techniques. The CBR also had a booth set up with blood and infectious disease related trivia, colouring pages, and CBR stickers for attendees to peruse throughout the day.
Recently, CBR Outreach Team members participated in the Elder Scholar lecture series. This is a new initiative led by UBC Extended Learning to allow retirees to continue learning by taking courses on a variety of topics. Here’s what Maria-Elizabeth Baeva, a MSc student in the Jefferies lab, had to say about being a guest lecturer at the Elder Scholar lecture series in September:

“I was asked to present about recent advances in my area of research: Alzheimer’s disease. You can probably guess that I was a bit nervous about presenting about such a seemingly hopeless and sensitive topic to the population most likely to be affected by the disease. I had to be very careful to balance my passion and love of research, the reality that pretty much all of the participants have been personally affected by the disease, staying professional and compassionate and keeping the talk interesting: it was quite a tall order! All in all, it ended up being a wonderful experience. The learners were very engaged and asked fantastic questions. It was also a learning experience for me: I learned about not underestimating the audience and being comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics.”

The CBR Outreach program is always looking for new members to join our fun and engaged team! If any of these activities look interesting to you, or you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to email Stefanie at stefanie.mak@ubc.ca.