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AstraZeneca’s Ruud Dobber extracts DNA from strawberries with a family at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute’s Family STEAM Night.
AstraZeneca’s Ruud Dobber (left) extracts DNA from strawberries with a family at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute’s Family STEAM Night.

Delaware Biotechnology Institute family night promotes science education

Photo by DBI Staff

UD’s College School and Lab School join drugmaker AstraZeneca at the event

The Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI), in partnership with AstraZeneca and the University of Delaware’s College School and Lab School, hosted a Family STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) event on May 16 at The College School/Lab School. More than 120 students, parents and teachers engaged in hands-on science activities to draw focus on the importance of STEAM training and jobs to the community.

John Koh, director of Delaware Biotechnology Institute, welcomed guest at the event and thanked the host, coordinators, teachers, and UD graduate student volunteers and guest volunteers from AstraZeneca.  Jennifer Gallo-Fox, an assistant professor in UD’s College of Education and Human Development, and special guest Ruud Dobber, the president of AstraZeneca US, also welcomed the guests.

“At the University of Delaware we are working to strengthen science education in the state and region through the development of a STEAM Education-Hub,” Gallo-Fox said. “Family STEAM night illustrates one way we can impact children, families and teacher education when we bring together the resources of our campus schools, teacher education, Delaware Biotechnology Institute and our local industries and scientists.”

As a part of DBI's Science for All Delawareans program, Family STEAM Night is designed to engage elementary and middle school students with science through fun and educational hands-on experiments.  Included with the hands-on experiments, images from the UD Art in Science and art produced by children at the schools, including 3D printed art, were on display for the participants to observe. The Family STEAM Night is an effort to address the fallout of students from the sciences by exposing them to exciting hands-on experiences.

Students and their parents performed three experiments that highlighted the three pillars of research at DBI: human health, agriculture, and the environment.  Participants had the opportunity to learn about microorganisms found in local soils. They observed bacterial growth samples of rocky soil and compost to see how the microorganisms help to provide nutrients to soil for enhancing plant growth.

Attendees viewed under a microscope a living microorganism, the tardigade (also called water bear). Students and their parents extracted DNA from strawberries, a technique for understanding traits in plants and animals important for agriculture. Participants learned about polymers and their uses in human health by making alginate worms.  This exercise demonstrated how polymers are made and how they can be used for biomedical applications.

“I was so pleased to participate in this exciting and educational evening with students and faculty from the University of Delaware and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute,” said Dobber, whose pharmaceutical company has a facility in Newark. “I had the opportunity to be a part of various hands-on science lessons for young children and was extremely proud to represent AstraZeneca as we supported STEAM education in our community. It is essential that we inspire young minds to be curious about science from an early age. Delaware Biotechnology Institute’s Family STEAM Night does just that, and I was thrilled to join an event that truly made science come alive for these children.”

These experiments formed part of a theme used by the Science for All Delawareans initiative related to “small changes” that can have “big effects.”  Different classrooms hosted various activities led by student volunteers working toward their master’s or doctoral degrees in the sciences at UD and volunteers from AstraZeneca. This event was made possible by the many volunteers including Colleen Pike, the DBI Townsend Fellow, the UD graduate student volunteers, the AstraZeneca volunteers, and the faculty and staff at the College School/Lab School.  

About Delaware Biotechnology Institute

The Delaware Biotechnology Institute is a partnership between government, academia, and industry to help establish the First State as a center of excellence in biotechnology and the life sciences. DBI promotes research, education, and technology transfer for biotechnology applications to the benefit of the environment, agriculture, and human health.


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