Since 1998, the University of Notre Dame has been inviting girls in middle school (6th-8th grade) to come and spend a Saturday to mingle, and have some fun with local women with careers in the STEM fields (a program called Expanding Your Horizons). I was one of the lucky women who were able to interact with these girls this past Saturday (April 29, 2012). I had 3 different groups of girls during the day, and all were fun, and filled with curiosity!
I actually began each session showing a commercial from Notre Dame which highlighted the zebrafish research being done here in Dr. David Hyde’s Lab. It told of the important research here, and how these little fish were wonderful in research, and it all took 2 minutes to watch!
We then began working with the fish, setting up mating tanks with male and female zebrafish. We were in a beautiful chemistry lab in Jordan Hall, which just added to the “research” atmosphere! Once the girls chose just the right male and female, they placed the mating tanks into a dark bin to “trick” the fish into thinking it was night. The night only lasted about 30 minutes, however, so none of the fish fell for it , thus they did NOT produce any baby zebrafish for us!! While the adult fish were “hangin’ out, we began observing (using microscopes) some embryos that I had collected throughout the week. These fish were at various stages-a few hours old, one day, two days, and three days old. The girls were able to guess what order to place their petridishes in so that they were lined up from youngest to oldest (without have that information written on the petridishes), and were very excited to see the embryos!
While we were together, I tried to ask each girl what her area of interest was, and what they thought they might want to do for their career. We had a couple marine biologists, some interested in veterinary science, some that just liked science in general, and one girl that responded “THIS, (while pointing to her microscope with the embryos on the stage), THIS is what I would want to do!” She just had a blast observing the embryos, and I felt so blessed to be there to share this experience with her and all the girls.
Here are some pictures of the girls.
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