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iLabs: Biogen Idec Foundation’s Gift to Us and Our Students

June 28, 2014

In the previous two posts I made reference to a $100,000 donation to our Museum that benefited programming Museum-wide and in the Micro World iLab.  And we’ve had such a busy time moving a number of initiatives forward because of their gift that we haven’t had time to write about it.

Having just completed the final end-of-grant-year report for them, we realized just how much the gift helped us and especially our students.  So let me share just what the grant has helped achieve:

First, two quotes from teachers whose students were able to visit our Museum and attend our lab classes, because grant funds paid for the classes and busing:

Our school budget does not allow for the expense of field trips. We use grants as a way to provide for all our students. If we charged the student for a trip, we would be excluding students who could not afford the cost. We are thankful for the support.

Fabulous!  Thank you so much! We aren’t able to do labs like this at our school and it was so nice to have experts explain it all!

The money allowed us to triple our new program offerings in Biotechnology and Human Health while maintaining a full complement of curriculum-correlated classes developed the previous year.

It provided for two amazing part-time staff members who share our passion for reaching every last child we can.  They made tremendous strides in revising and adding more lab activities for the public, implementing needed lab organizational procedures, finishing the Pyrocystis project we’ve been developing for 2 years, mentoring interns and students, and most especially, providing a welcoming presence to the over 29,000 public visitors our iLab hosted in the past 12 months. (The Museum has over a million visitors a year.)

The funds purchased: Bio-rad and Edvotek kits in electrophoresis, thin layer and size-exclusion chromatography, cell biology, cancer diagnostics, ELISA immunology techniques and blood cell staining; a variety of human body system models; a real-time PCR machine; bacterial strains and media; a gas chromatography machine; science curriculum materials; preserved specimens; and of course, the GoPro Hero 3+ action cam that we’ll be using heavily this year to post more visuals on the blog.

We taught 2,305 students from 14 North Carolina counties in our lab classes.

678 of these students were from under-served, high-need counties (we set a goal of 5oo students and were able to actually exceed this).  Because of the grant funding we could provide the classes free to these students and provide them with funds for bus transportation. Some of these groups traveled over three hours one way to attend.

Biogen Idec Foundation sponsored the Triangle Sci-Tech Expo on April 5, attended the check presentation to the Museum on March 27, and participated in our “Research Scientists’ Toolbox” program that featured a panel of 13 scientists being interrogated by students.

New lab programs piloted this year included:

  • Three-part Bacteriology program.
  • Four-part Drug Development program.
  • Two-part Pollution, Toxicology, and Bioremediation program.
  • PCR & DNA Electrophoresis.
  • Cell Biology.
  • Immunology.
  • Epidemiology.
  • Chromatography.
  • Three Human Health Mystery classes.
  • Fungi and Forests.

So this has been an absolutely AMAZING year for us and thanks to all of our lab staff and to Biogen Idec Foundation for the cooperation, hard work, and generosity of funds and spirit.

Even more exciting though, we will be able to continue and advance even MORE objectives this coming year. This is because we re-applied for, and received another year of funding at the same level!

So first, we will add a number of the classes piloted last year to our stable of established curriculum-correlated classes AND we are already developing new table activities and classes in:

  • Ocean Science/Ecosystems.
  • Cell Biology, cell culturing, fluorescence microscopy.
  • DNA sequencing.
  • Bioinformatics.
  • Protein Electrophoresis.
  • Advanced Microbiology.
  • Phylogenetics.
  • Chemistry curriculum (basic, biochem, organic, and applied).
  • Additional human health classes and a basic anatomy course.

We are also piloting some teacher workshops and are adding a new “outreach” component, developing short lab classes that can be taken to local after-school programs at the YMCA and other locations.

I will be writing more in the future on some of the specific topics such as the brand new Chemistry curriculum being developed with the Natural World iLab and the Epidemiology program being developed with the Visual World iLab.

And one of the other big things this year is to collaborate with researchers in the Museum’s MicroGenomics lab and researchers at NC State University to bring current research project information into our classes.

There is also going to be expanded Thursday night programming.

So a LOT has been happening, and a lot MORE will be coming your way.  We’ll keep you up-to-date on all that is in store, and the class list/schedule for the upcoming year will be available sometime in late July online.

We hope to see you in our classes!


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