Science Outreach: Bringing EcoFABs to the BLDAP

The Northen group is excited to support the Berkeley Lab Director’s Apprenticeship Program (BLDAP) for a second year in the summer of 2021! 

BLDAP provides an opportunity for underrepresented public high school students (including African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Latinos, LGBTQ+, students from low income households, and first-generation college attendees) to apply themselves in STEM projects and develop strong connections to the broader scientific community and Berkeley Lab researchers. The program objectives are to build confidence and identity, cultivate interest in STEM activities and careers, and increase exposure to specific STEM careers, professionals, and skill sets. 

Northen group members Ying Wang, Pete Andeer, and Rachel Neurath are currently developing  EcoFAB experiments for BLDAP students. This EcoFAB-centric project will enable students to engage with hands-on science despite the remote nature of the program due to limitations brought about by COVID-19 . Through this project, the Northen group is assembling EcoFAB kits for each student to conduct remote science experiments at home. Last year, former group member Lauren Jabusch, now in the Berkeley Lab BioSciences Area Office, developed the BLDAP EcoFAB project with Pete, leading the students in an exploration of the effects of salinity on plant growth.

For the 2021 BLDAP opportunity, the students will explore the impact of a critical nutrient, nitrogen, on plant growth as they germinate, transplant, and maintain the grass Brachypodium distachyon in their EcoFABs. Every week, Ying, Pete, and Rachel will remotely interact with students through the BLDAP to guide generating hypotheses, maintaining an interactive lab notebook, and interpreting data. 

Following a BLDAP panel on ethics in science, the Northen group (again with former member Lauren Jabusch) will lead a discussion of the history and ethics of nitrogen production and use in agriculture. This work is part of the Northen group’s efforts to foster a new generation of diverse scientists that will define our future. The Northen Lab, and in particular, Ying, Pete, and Rachel, are excited to work with this year’s cohort of BLDAP students!