Student Testimonials: 2017-2018

Stephanie Binova

Master's Student, Genetic Counseling

Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling

Research interest: Genetic Counseling, Variant Interpretation

My time working for Stanford at the Tech was truly a unique experience.

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As a future genetic counselor, it was a wonderful training experience in learning how to take complicated genetic concepts and make them accessible to the greater public audience, in particular children. The importance of making science and learning fun for the next generation cannot be understated. I very much enjoyed my time engaging with the children about genetics at the museum and seeing their interest was very rewarding.

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Vivian Chen

Grad student, Biology

Gavin Sherlock Lab   

Functional genomics of adaptive evolution

Thanks Stanford at the Tech! 

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Through Stanford at the Tech, I helped visitors pull their own DNA from their saliva, so they can see their DNA with the naked eye! I played a game with the visitors where they competed for a limited number of points. The visitors watched as traits that got more points spread through the group. I also helped visitors solve a murder mystery by matching DNA from a crime scene to DNA of the suspects! To a scientist, I would simply say that I helped museum visitors extract DNA, simulate natural selection, and load DNA electrophoresis gels. Now, I learned to how make that short technical sentence into a clear and entertaining summary. This is one example of how volunteering with Stanford at the Tech taught me how to be clear when I talk about science! I also had the privilege to share my passion for science with students and museum visitors! It was very rewarding to ignite that spark of excitement and understanding in students! Seeing their excitement refueled my own passion! I am grateful for this opportunity to share my passion and grow as a scientist and science communicator!

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Danielle Dondaville    

Master's Student, Genetics Counseling 

Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling

Research Interest: Genetics Counseling, Huntington's disease

As a volunteer at the Tech, you get to inspire future scientists!

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It doesn’t get old to hear, “whoa, genetics is cool!”  And you’ll get a lot of that when volunteering at the Tech. It’s easy to get in a routine of “doing” science and it’s not until you step back and share science with other people that you’re able to re-appreciate why you first fell in love with it. Seeing museum visitors’ eyes light up with understanding is rewarding and hearing them praise your line of work is the cherry on top. As a future genetic counselor, the experience was also extremely valuable in improving my communication and teaching skills. It challenged me to find alternate ways of explaining a complex genetics topic, which I can take with me into my future line of work. I would highly recommend this experience to any graduate student looking to take their love of science outside of the lab or classroom to share with and inspire others.

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Barbara Dunn

Senior Research Scientist, Genetics 

Sherlock and Snyder labs

Research Interest: Genomics and evolution of beer and wine yeasts

I had such a great time leading these activities.

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And I think most of the kids (and occasional participating parents/chaperones) had a good time too; seeing the “aha” of comprehension dawn on a kid’s face or hearing another one say “this is fun!” felt very rewarding and gave me hope that I may have been helping pass on at least the beginning of a passion for science. This was a very worthwhile, educational (in both directions) and feel-good experience that I urge anyone in science, whatever level you’re at, to participate in.

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Sage Hellerstedt              

Assistant Biocuration Scientist 

Mike Cherry Lab

Research interest: Biocuration and post-translational modification data     

Volunteering at the Tech Museum was a fun and rewarding experience. 

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Spending a weekday morning at the Tech Museum was a nice change-up in my work week.  My lab work involves facilitating research, so I spend a lot of time communicating science to other scientists.  Teaching visitors of all different ages and backgrounds about genetics was a new, challenging, and enjoyable experience.  While leading activities, I got to teach visitors about biology, but I also learned a lot about how to teach complex genetics concepts to non-scientists (at least not-yet-scientists!) in more understandable ways.  Being a part of getting kids excited about science was inspiring and reminded me of my own passion for science.

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Olivia Lang

Assistant Biocuration Scientist 

Mike Cherry Lab 

Research interest: Biocuration of sequences and large datasets 

When I used to visit the Tech Museum for grade school field trips, I never considered that I would be on the other side of the exhibit table one day. 

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Since I grew up in the area, the Tech Museum was a regular destination for school field trips. I had great memories of doing these types of activities and I wanted to pass forward the fun I had as a kid. There are kids with all sorts of personalities that pass through the station and it’s particularly worthwhile watching their reactions when they learn some cool bit about genetics. On the personal development side, I am now a lot more comfortable and articulate in my communication with younger audiences. Adjusting my language to different age groups was definitely a challenge but I feel much more competent about communicating scientific concepts in general. This is a good way to develop your scientific communication skills for audiences without science backgrounds, an important skill for expanding public understanding of science.

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Laura Lee

Grad Student, Biology

Bergmann Lab

Research Interest: Cellular identity maintenance in plants 

Volunteering with the Tech Museum was a great experience.

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The program creates a rare space, where science enthusiasts and science professionals can meet. This provides a fantastic opportunity to practice your science communication skills. As scientists, we have a duty to share the knowledge we gather with the broader community. Opportunities like this help us fulfill that duty. More personally, it can be easy to forget how lucky we are to be scientists, and how fascinating the work we do is. Seeing people get so excited to learn about science is a perfect reminder. Having finished the experience, I am more confident in my science communication skills and my excitement about science is renewed.

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Karina Liker

Master's Student, Genetics Counseling 

Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counceling

Research Interest: Integration of genetics and genomics into clinical medicine

Working at the Tech Museum has been a welcome break in my week.

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I love getting to use a different part of my brain, which in turn helps me communicate better with patients as a future genetic counselor. As part of the Stanford genetic counseling program, we're constantly told to look for ways to explain complex concepts clearly and succinctly to patients. The activities at the Tech Museum provide perfect opportunities to practice doing just that and even model strategies I can see myself using in the future to communicate with patients. By the end of my time at the Tech, I also noticed myself getting more and more comfortable talking to kids and adults of all ages about genetics, even if I was doing an activity for the very first time. I would highly recommend working at the Tech Museum to anyone who's interested in sharing their excitement about genetics, even if you're feeling a little shy!

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Megan Nathan

Master's Student, Genetic Counseling

Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling

Research interest: Genetic Counseling, Assessing and Promoting Equity of Care for LGBT Clients

Stanford at the Tech was a memorable and rewarding experience. 

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Spending one morning a week at the Tech was a great way to shake up my routine. Not only did I get to spend time off campus (and out of a library), but I got to meet our next generation of scientists. It was incredibly rewarding to help plant seeds of curiosity in their young minds. My favorite moments were when I could see the kids get excited, or I could see something "click" for them. I also enjoyed working with the other museum volunteers. The Tech has a great crew of helpers, whom I will miss just as much as the science experiments. 

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Alma Parada     

Postdoc, Earth System Science

Anne Dekas Lab        

Marine microbial ecology

Stanford at the Tech provides a fun means of learning science communication.

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Stanford at the Tech was a super rewarding experience, and I would recommend anyone to sign-up. As scientists we often focus on the details of our work, forgetting how important it is to convey the big picture to our audience. When you have to explain scientific concepts to people with a narrower breadth of background knowledge, you really have to think about what pieces of information actually matter to convey the material and learn that fancy words only detract from teaching if no one knows what you're saying. Learning how to communicate what DNA is and what genes are to children and adults of diverse backgrounds makes it so much easier to talk to peers and colleagues about science in general. After getting a four year old to understand that DNA is important and unique to each person while he pipets with two hands, speaking about research just doesn't seem that hard!

 

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Jessica Park       

Master's Student, Genetic Counseling 

Master's Program in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling

Ethics of genetic testing

Learning to communicate science is an art!

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Working at the Tech has taught me to re-evaluate how I think about describing science. Most of the details that scientists get excited about are not necessary to explain to a lay audience. I've learned a lot about how to think about tailoring communication to the audience in front of me. It was challenging but fun to find ways to adjust my activity to audiences that ranged from 5-year-old kids to adult family member to children with disabilities. I would recommend that every scientist challenge themselves in a similar way; working at the Tech museum is one fun way to do it!

 

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Ragini Phansalkar

Grad student, Genetics                 

Lars Steinmetz lab            

Cellular lineage tracing and personalized medicine

It is so much fun to share your love of science with museum visitors!

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Every time I went to the Tech for an activity, I came out with a renewed excitement about genetics and about my project. When I did the CRISPR activity and students said, "That's crazy! You can just change the color of the yeast like that!” I thought, yeah that is an incredible thing! And the best part is that as graduate students we get to do it every day in the lab. You will have many different kinds of visitors at the Tech. Some will not know much about genes or DNA, but when they extract their own DNA from saliva or see how living things can be manipulated with CRISPR, they want to know so much more. I have had other guests, even young ones, who had a deeper understanding of genetics, and had many specific questions that were a challenge but also very interesting to answer. From 5 year olds to 50 year olds, meeting and talking to the museum visitors is definitely the best part of the job.

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Michelle Pang  

Grad student, Biology   

Tom Clandinin Lab 

Molecular mechanisms of visual processing

Stanford at the Tech was a great opportunity to practice communicating science to a non-scientist audience and to revisit how exciting fundamental science concepts can be. 

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I had been interested in getting into science outreach for a while, but I hadn't realized how challenging it is to communicate science to non-scientists effectively. This program was a great way to carve out a weekly time to develop this skill, and it was really helpful to do so through well-designed activities that have been scripted to best communicate complicated ideas. Sometimes a different explanation or analogy can help someone understand and appreciate a concept in a way they hadn't thought about before. It was also uplifting to see how many kids are genuinely excited to be at a science museum and to watch their own DNA precipitate or see what their nucleus looks like inside their cheek cells!

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Nikki Teran         

Grad student, Genetics                 

Aaron Straight Lab   

Repetitive DNA at the centromere  

They actually let me work at a science museum!

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I love science (hence the PhD) and I've always loved science museums. Stanford at the Tech actually let me fulfill a childhood dream to work in one. It was really fun to speak with kids, and adults, that wanted to learn. It was a helpful reminder of how cool what I get to do really is. It's also made me a better communicator of my own science. I've picked up helpful tips for explaining basic concepts as well as the ability to judge the understanding (and interest) of my audience. I've really appreciated the learning opportunity and the ability to give back and excite people about what excites me.

 

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Kristen Wells

Grad student, Genetics 

Lars Steinmetz Lab 

Research interest: Gene regulation in autoimmune disease

Going to The Tech was a weekly reminder of why I do science.

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Stanford at The Tech was an exceptional experience. Doing lab work I sometimes get so wrapped up in the details that I forget why I fell in love with science. Going to The Tech was a great weekly reminder of why I became a scientist. Every day I saw wonder in the kids’ eyes as they saw their DNA for the first time or tried to find one gene in the “yeast recipe book” (the yeast genome). This wonder reminded me of why science is so interesting and why our work is important. It allowed me to come back to the lab reinvigorated and ready for the next challenge. Working at The Tech also honed my communication skills. I learned how to talk to people at all different levels and how to quickly determine the best way to present new information. The questions asked each week were always different and interesting; and importantly, they gave me insight into the most common areas of misconception in the public. It’s helped me better understand the misconceptions people have about science and gave me the tools to successfully talk about science in any setting. This experience has been an indispensable part of my PhD.

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Shizuka Yamada

Grad student, Biology   

Aaron Gitler Lab 

Neurodegeneration and protein synthesis

I had so much fun volunteering at the Tech and working with visitors of all ages. 

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Seeing their faces light up when we’ve looked at their cells together or when they’ve learned about a new technology like CRISPR was so rewarding. I’ve even had some young visitors give me hugs or leave talking about how science is so cool and those moments can really make your day. The experience really challenges you to constantly create more analogies to make the science relatable or force you to learn more about the topic to get different people excited too. I would highly recommend it to anyone—it will make you a better teacher, citizen and scientist.

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