Stanford at The Tech

Since 2002, the Genetics Department has partnered with The Tech Interactive (The Tech) to run a suite of public outreach programs designed to educate, excite, and inform the general public about genetics and science. Every year, 12-16 program participants facilitate hands-on experiences for thousands of museum visitors, write articles for a website that reaches millions worldwide, receive training in science communication, and learn about alternative career paths.

Interested in joining the waitlist? Please email Abbey Thompson.

PhD student Guillaume Riesen asks museum visitors to help him solve a murder mystery with gel electrophoresis.

Program Eligibility

Stanford PhD students: Any PhD student in a biology-related lab/department is welcome. Students must have completed their first year coursework, and cannot participate in the same quarter as qualifying exams.

Genetic counseling students: Second year Genetic Counseling students may use this program to fulfill work study requirements.

Postdocs: Postdocs in any biology-related lab are welcome. If you are international, check your visa for any conflicts.

Genetics department staff: Staff in any genetics-affiliated labs are welcome, with written permission from your PI/manager. A PhD is not necessary.

While there is sometimes a waitlist to get into the program, there is additional flexibility for later-stage students and post-docs.

Introduce visitors to sequence analysis and ancient DNA.

Help visitors extract their own DNA to take home in a necklace.

Program Specifics

Overall commitment: 4-6hrs/week for two quarters

Run floor programs: Spend one morning per week at The Tech, facilitating up to 8 different activities. Help visitors make necklaces with their own DNA, run an agarose gel to solve a crime, look at their own cells under a microscope, and more.

Write: Contribute blog posts to The Tech's genetics website by answering questions from the public.

Complete a final project: In your second quarter, apply what you’ve learned in a final project. Create new floor activities, collaborate with The Tech’s experience development team, design new graphics, write special content for the website, or come up with something entirely unique.

Genetics Carnival: For the first few weeks of fall quarter, we pack up and head to Overfelt High School in San Jose where we run genetics activities for every freshman biology class.

Other activities: This program is meant to be flexible! If there is something else you’d like to do in your time at The Tech, it’s probably something you can try.

PhD student Alexa Wnorowski guides visitors through collecting and staining their own cheek cells to look at under a microscope

Program Benefits

Communication practice: Practice communicating with various audiences, including K-12 field trips, families, adults, mixed groups, 9th grade biology classes (fall only), and more. Many program participants discover that these are transferable skills, leading to better research talks!

Assistance writing for a lay audience: Many program participants are surprised at how difficult it is to write for a non-expert audience. Each article draft will receive significant edits, suggestions, and advice from the Program Director.

Networking opportunities: During your time at The Tech, you will meet many different museum professionals. This includes people who specialize in developing biology experiences, as well as experience developers with other specialties.

In person mentoring: You will receive extensive feedback and advice throughout the program. Each day at The Tech, the Program Director will be present to offer feedback, advice, and suggestions on how to improve and/or deal with challenging groups. Additionally, you’ll be trained on each new activity by a senior program participant, providing opportunities for peer-to-peer mentoring.

Stipend: A small stipend is provided for your time, set at the 10% TA rate.


If you are interested in being part of this program, please email Abbey Thompson to find out more information about how to get started.

This project was supported by a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Center For Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. Its content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of NCRR or NIH.