Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

National Lab Day

Students and teachers at Northwestern’s oncofertility academy
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Today is National Lab Day. As part of this initiative, thousands of researchers in the US are reaching out to their communities to help teach children from kindergarten through grade 12 about science.

National Lab Day is not just a day—it’s a long-term program spurred by the White House, launched last year. Partner organizations include the National Institutes of Health, the American Chemical Society and the MacArthur foundation. You can read more here at Naturejobs.

Anyone have any plans for the day? In honor of the initiative I assembled a few educational outreach programs I have run across. Do you have any favorites of your own? Here are mine:


Outreach at scientific meeting of the Society for the Study of Reproduction. As part of its annual meeting this year in Milwaukee the society will conduct a day-long workshop with high school kids, including hands-on lab experiences and career advice panels. Seems like a great idea to peg educational outreach to a meeting. Has anyone seen this at other scientific meetings?

Oncofertility Saturday Academy. This program, initiated in 2007 at Northwestern University’s Institute for Women’s Health Research, and by reproductive scientist Teresa Woodruff, focuses on inspiring high school girls. The program teaches them about “the basic science, clinical applications and career options in reproductive science, cancer biology and oncofertility.” 28 of the 32 alumni now in college are pursuing science-related majors. The program is now being implemented at sites across the nation.

Science Education Partnership at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC) in Seattle. FHCRC runs an excellent program to hook secondary school teachers up with scientists, which is now celebrating its 20 year anniversary. Scientists, for instance, can mentor a teacher for a week, or give a talk in a classroom. The program is celebrating its 20 year anniversary, and has scored a hefty grant from the Howard Hughes Institute, which is supporting similar initiatives nationwide. At FHCRC, my alma mater, the program gets a lot of support from scientists, although not all principle investigators are enthusiastic about their postdocs and graduate students taking time from the bench. Perhaps those who are reluctant could take some inspiration from President Obama:

I’m calling on all 200,000 scientists who work for the federal government to do their part in their communities: to speak at schools, to create hands-on learning opportunities through efforts like National Lab Day, and to help stoke that same curiosity in students which perhaps led them to pursue a career in science in the first place.

Image from Northwestern University

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