It was no ordinary day for 20 high school students from Galt High School’s Biomedical, Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) Academy, who were given a break from the classroom to embark on a memorable field trip to the Laboratory earlier this week.
The Galt High School BEST Academy, sanctioned by the National Academy Foundation and accredited through Project Lead the Way, provides an opportunity for students to explore engineering and biomedical science courses while still in high school. The students who participated in the field trip were mainly juniors and seniors who have been taking biomedical science courses as their electives and working toward the goal of getting summer internships at various institutions.
The majority of these students have never visited a national laboratory or research facility. During their field trip, they saw the potential for future careers and were given a rare opportunity to see how what they are learning in the classroom translates into cutting-edge science that solves real-world problems.
The biomedical academy teachers, Oscar Corona and Jason Lopez, were thrilled with the day and said it was a memorable experience for the students.
“Our students need to hear that what they are learning in the classroom can actually be applied in the real world,” said Corona. “Students learn lessons at school about biomedical science and technology, but they need to make the connection that they can actually implement what they learn here at Galt High School in an actual lab.”
Their visit to the Laboratory included tours of Additive Manufacturing with Eric Duoss and the Center for Micro and Nano Technology with Angela Tooker.
“It was mind blowing to see all the different projects that are taking place in the lab and the technological advancements,” said student Erica Escalera. "Seeing the different ways individuals use their degrees to ultimately help save the lives of people motivates me to follow my dreams.”
In addition to the tours, Vanessa Tolosa gave a presentation on the work she and her team are doing with neural devices, and Carolyn Koester gave a presentation on the work done by the Laboratory’s Forensic Science Center.
“I found it interesting that there were many different people with different cultural backgrounds that came together in one lab to collaborate with one another,” said student Alina Munoz.
The tours and presentations were followed by a panel discussion at the Edward Teller Education Center, led by researchers Nick Be, Mike Malfatti, Monica Moya, Vanessa Tolosa and Beth Vitalis and facilitated by LLNL Education Program Manager Joanna Albala. The panelists discussed their educational and career paths and answered students' questions.
"I absolutely loved learning about the different technologies used in the lab, but my favorite part of the trip was the panel, where I was able to learn valuable skills in pursuing an education and career," said student Jessica Rosado.
The students were surprised and comforted to hear that most of the panelists started college with one major in mind, but through taking classes found their niche and gravitated to something else. They reassured the students that they don’t have to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives and that it's OK to change paths.
”The scientists that we met all reached the highest level of education. They inspired me to continue my education and begin to have a network that in the long run will benefit me,” added Munoz.
The students not only learned about the latest research in bioengineering, additive manufacturing, bioinformatics and forensic science, they also learned about different careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the importance of collaborating, networking and making connections with others.
“I was able to relate to some of the panel presenters, which made me see my dreams as a possibility, said Escalera. “They showed me that you can achieve anything as long as you take one day at a time and have dedication.”
The field trip was hosted by the Laboratory’s Science Education Program and literally concluded with a bang. While ending their visit at the Discovery Center, they were treated to some “Fun With Science” demonstrations (hence the bang) by presenter Nick Williams.
“I’ve been on a lot of field trips in my teaching career and very few are as educational, inspiring, engaging, and fun as our visit to LLNL,” said Lopez.