2007 News Articles-Department of Biological Sciences - Carnegie Mellon University

Department Faculty and Undergraduates Guide Middle School Students Through “Hands-on” Science Experiments

Department Faculty and Undergraduates Guide Middle School Students Through “Hands-on” Science ExperimentsThe Male Mentoring Project at the Mount Ararat Community Activity Center (MACAC) in Pittsburgh is dedicated to enhancing academic achievement and social skills among young male middle school students. The students from four Pittsburgh area middle schools participate in a wide variety of cultural and community events. Thanks to the Department of Biological Sciences and funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Undergraduate Science Education Program, these middle schoolers and their adult mentors were able to unravel scientific mysteries in a real laboratory setting.

For two Saturdays in the spring, twenty students and their mentors gathered in one of Mellon Institute’s undergraduate teaching laboratory to tackle scientific problems. In the first project, students exposed living yeast cells to cigarette and cigar smoke and common household chemicals to see how “second-hand smoke” and chemical pollutants affect cell growth and survival. The second experiment introduced the students to the field of Forensic Science. Students collected and examined DNA evidence to solve the crime “Who Broke Into the Principal’s Office?”

Students and mentors worked closely with Biological Sciences faculty members Peter Berget, James Burnette, Amy Burkert and Carrie Doonan, and undergraduates Kate Cummings, James MacKrell, Satyan Pai, Vasu Palli, Will Eimer, Andrea Zonneveld, Ken Bagwell and Bertrade Mbom.

Peter Berget, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, acted as the matchmaker for the MACAC Male Mentoring Project and Carnegie Mellon. Along with Burnette, Lecturer and Coordinator of Undergraduate Research Placement, Doonan, Associate Teaching Professor of Biological Sciences and Burkert, Associate Department Head, Berget organized the two MACAC visits and plans to expand the program in the fall.