Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists - Brain Day at the Museum

Guest Post by Upal Roy Assistant Professor, Department of Immunology at Florida International University

I was not sure what I was getting into when Dr Angela Colbert, PhD Science Curator of Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science at Miami invited me for a presentation on the Brain Day on Saturday March 21st.  Although I loved talking to people about science outside my own laboratory, I was unsure of my feelings about presenting in this context. Upon thinking more about it, I liked the idea of the challenge of talking about science to young, possible future scientists. When I say young, the age range was 4 through to 14 years. I always have made posters for presenting my work at conferences, so I thought adapting to a new situation would be no big deal. After weighing up the pros and cons, I decided to say yes to Angela and proceeded to prepare for Brain Day!

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For starters, my student Paul and I did some homework on our poster to ensure that it was audience appropriate; with Paul's help I made the message simple and clear enough to allow us to be able to explain the poster to anyone of any age and background. Angela then offered me another layer of challenge on top of the poster - designing a game for my research so that I can explain my work to our visitors at the conference. Once again I was not sure, what kind of game could I make for kids that would make my research fascinating to them? Angela's creative mind really made it easy on the D-day as I arrived with my poster!  With her help, we created a little game with glitters and can of water and made a really cool experiment to help people understand the fundamentals about the brain and its barriers.

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 The game was all about the coffee filter which is our Blood Brain Barrier or in short BBB. Using water as a blood substitute really worked with golden color glitters standing in as drug molecules, which will pass thorough the coffee filter acting as a BBB. The metaphor was coffee filter or BBB was blocking glitters or drug molecule. However the nanomedicine will be so small that will pass through that BBB or filter without any problem. To me that was the coolest idea about explaining nanomedicine based drug delivery to brain where conventional drugs cannot enter due to large molecular size. However, nanodrugs will be small enough to pass through this barrier without a problem thereby presenting the possibility to treat many brain related diseases.

With their enthusiasm and motivation I really thought for a day I can cure brain disorders with my research

Upal Roy

"It was fascinating" a mother told me who was visiting my booth with her 8 year old daughter at the Brain Day. Some school kids would not stop playing with that water with glitters and of course they knew what to do with coffee filters. It is quite an experience to explain your very exciting science to a very hyperactive population of youngsters!

The day went by faster than I thought it would, especially when some cool high school students jumped in to help me out. They were very easy to explain my work to and got my concept way easier than I could ever imagine! With four of them participating, more students came by with their friends and some more future scientists. Before closing the students were more interested in their own drug delivery approach - they thought to poke a hole in the coffee filter to deliver the entire drug and cure all the brain disease was the best method!

With their enthusiasm and motivation I really thought for a day I can cure brain disorders with my research. Even when I was rolling down my poster someone yelled at me "Hey doc, next year come with a new drug!”. It was such a treat for a researcher like me. However, the next day when I went back to the lab I felt like "game over". We have long way to go to cure any disease, but it was such an encouragement that I can treasure for a very long time!

Thank you my little scientists (LeKayla from William H. Turner Technical Arts High School, Wanye and Cecilia from Booker T. Washington High School) make my job more rewarding than ever. Thanks Angela and Miami Science museum for the opportunity.

Upal Roy

To find out more about Upal and his research please visit his profile. I would like to thank him for his time in generating this interesting post for us! 

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