Dr. Reed heads an outreach program that introduces techniques used in our lab to 7th grade students at a local middle school to help reinforce topics they learn in class and foster scientific inquiry. By using students at the university and members from our lab to help mentor and teach these students, it is her goal to show that college is attainable and that anyone, regardless of gender, race, and socioeconomic status, has the potential to become a scientist.
To cap off a year of sharing techniques like DNA fingerprinting using PCR, genetic crossing to discover Mendelian traits, and taxonomic classification using dichotomous keys, we hosted a field trip at the University to show the students what it's like on a college campus. I led one of the three groups of students on a tour of the Alabama Museum of Natural History, the Quad (the center of campus life), the Optical Analysis Facility, and the Reed Lab. We finished off the tour with a dining experience at one of our dining halls. The children were extremely inquisitive, asking questions about flu, cancer, and diabetes, trying to understand the origin of the infections and diseases they come in contact with everyday. I believe that after walking the campus and exploring the facilities that scientist really use to conduct research, many of the students began to envision themselves attending college and pursuing science.