Snapshots of Summer

From lab placements to symposiums at MIT, our LEAH Knox Scholars had a very busy summer! Looking back upon the LEAH Knox Scholars summer program, we wanted to share our successes and highlights from the summer: 

Getting a “Handle” on DNA and Protein: 2019 Cohort 

The 2019 Cohort of LEAH Knox Scholars hit the ground running in lab work after introductory molecular biology workshops. They delved into laboratory tests as they successfully identified an unknown bacteria from the Charles River. Youth extracted water samples from the Charles River, and began an in depth analysis of the microorganisms they found in the water. From the extraction process, they ran a number of experiments such as polymerase chain reaction, gel electrophoresis, and pipetting to discover what kind of bacteria they had. At the end of the summer, the youth presented their results at a symposium at a symposium at MIT. Youth enjoyed the process and the autonomy in the lab they as they were working on their research question. 

This program is significant to the youth because many of these youth don’t have the opportunity to conduct independent research projects, much less access to labs in the schools they go to. The LEAH Knox Scholars program enables them to become the scientists they have the potential to become. 

 Check out our pictures to see these amazing young people in action, presenting their findings on what they learned all summer! 

Melissa Gonzalez, one of our LEAH Knox Scholars is presenting on her bacteria from the Charles River.

Melissa Gonzalez, one of our LEAH Knox Scholars is presenting on her bacteria from the Charles River.

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 Expansion for Second Year Internships: 

We witnessed great gains this past summer as we tripled the number of LEAH Knox Scholars in labs around the Greater Boston Area. Our lab partners included a mixture of leading hospitals in the state, innovative pharmaceutical companies, and top tiered universities such as: Broad Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Vertex, and University of Massachusetts, Boston. Our youth worked on projects ranging from cancer research to environmental microbiology, all the way to engineering probes inserted into the brains of birds. Two of our LEAH Knox Scholars at labs said after their experience and career direction:  

“I feel like we were able to put everything to the test… not only what we learned last year in the lab, but also the professional development workshops… We were able to do that in a more professional setting.” 

“Before (LKS), I was really undecided. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but now, after these two years, I feel like it definitely influenced me a lot on what I wanted to do.” 

This program exists to expose students to STEM and empower them to pursue careers in related fields and it is great to hear from our young people that we’re doing just that.  

Kathleen Wei (left), Angelys Matos (center), and Talia Marc (right) sharing good times after presenting on their second year lab internships at the symposium.

Kathleen Wei (left), Angelys Matos (center), and Talia Marc (right) sharing good times after presenting on their second year lab internships at the symposium.

Seniors: 

  • 100%. We are so proud to announce that 100% of seniors in the LEAH Knox Scholars program not only graduated from high school (compared to 75.2 from Boston Public Schools), but all of them have been admitted to colleges, most with scholarships. For our young people in college now, we’re already seeing great things. Below, you’ll see one of our LEAH Knox Scholars alumni Hubert Galan at his new professor’s office at Dartmouth College: We can’t wait to see what else is in store for our alumni!  

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Women in STEM Panel

Despite comprising half of the college-educated workforce in the United States, less than 30 percent of women make up the science workforce, with there being a particular dearth in the physical sciences and and engineering fields (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016).

As a STEM-based organization, serving many young women, The LEAH Knox Scholars program and Life Science Cares hosted a Women in STEM panel on April 11th at Sanofi Genzyme, a biotechnology company in Cambridge. Youth had the opportunity to hear from nine distinguished women in STEM fields. The fields represented ranged from biomedical science and pharmaceuticals to engineering and data analysis. During the panel, they provided a brief overview of the work they do, how they got into the STEM field, and what it means to them being women leaders in a predominantly male-dominated field.

Afterwards, the panelists were able to get a chance to interact with the youth in small groups to go over career advice, answer questions, and get to hear more about the amazing work the mentors are doing through LEAH. The youth were engaged throughout the evening and asked many thought-provoking questions. Many youth remarked how great it was to hear from such a diverse, experienced panel.

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Summer Applications are OPEN!

The LEAH Project has TWO summer internship programs for interested high school students. Both applications are open now and are due by March 22nd.

LEAH Knox Scholars Program is a biology research internship that runs in partnership with MIT where students learn hands-on lab skills from experts in the field. Applications can be found here: http://form.leahknoxscholars.org/lks-summer-2019-application/

The LEAH Project is a STEM-based teaching internship where students have the opportunity to teach elementary school youth STEM lessons at summer camps and serve as junior counselors. Applications can be found here: http://form.leahknoxscholars.org/new-leah-mentor-application-summer-2019/

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November 1st, 2018: STEM College Conversations Night:

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On November 1st, the LEAH Project hosted a STEM College Night at Tufts Medical School. LEAH staff recruited college and graduate student volunteers who talked with our LEAH Knox Scholars about their educational experiences. In small discussion groups, the Mentors had an opportunity to ask questions that related to high school, college, and professional life related to STEM fields. 

Health Resources in Action Awarded NIH Grant for New Hands-on Biomedical Research Education for High School Students

Boston, September 7, 2017 – Health Resources in Action has received a five year, $1.25 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand its LEAH* STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education program for Boston and Cambridge public high school students. Health Resources in Action (HRiA) has partnered with the Boston Private Industry Council and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to provide opportunities for high school students to get a head start towards careers as leaders in biomedical research. 

HRiA’s LEAH project (Leaders through Education, Action and Hope) is a STEM, college readiness, and workforce development for Boston public school students. “We are thrilled to receive this NIH grant to support the mission of the LEAH Project. These funds allow the LEAH Project to provide hands-on lab experiences for our high school students, many of whom do not have science labs in schools,” commented Lisa Aslan, LEAH Program Manager.

The new, SEPA -funded, LEAH Knox Scholars program offers two years of support for high school students that include:

  • Training in biology lab skills through a 4-week lab experience at MIT as rising juniors.  
  • STEM teaching and mentorship for elementary school students through the LEAH program.
  • Summer research internships throughout Boston’s world-class research labs as rising seniors.
  • College admissions counseling through LEAH.

A 2016 report published authored by Robert Sege, MD, PhD,  HRiA’s Chief Medical Officer, reported that only 1% of NIH award recipients are Black scientists, and traced the under-representation all the way back to high school. Based on this insight, the LEAH Knox Scholars program will provide minority students with the solid foundation needed to continue their science education in college and beyond. Sege commented: “The LEAH Knox Scholars program exemplifies HRiA’s commitment to racial equity, and our close ties with area universities and hospitals.”

Knox Scholars is named after William J. Knox, the grandson of slaves, who went on to earn degrees from Harvard and MIT.  He contributed to the Manhattan project and had a productive career at Eastman Kodak.  “My grandfather [Dr. Knox)] had to sleep in the kitchen at Harvard, because Black men were not allowed in the dorms,” said Dr. Lynn Porter, a Boston pediatrician and advisor to the program.

This summer, HRiA and MIT enrolled 16 high school students in a LEAH pilot. This first cohort and their families were welcomed to the program by Nobel Laureate Phil Sharp, MIT biology department Chair Alan Grossman, Bob Sege and Lynn Porter. Phil Sharp reminded everyone that "a college education is a path to freedom". The students completed the pilot summer lab course, under the direction of Drs. Mandana Sassanfar and Vanessa Cheung at MIT.

*About The LEAH Project at Health Resources in Action

The Leaders through Education Action and Hope (LEAH) Project is a STEM, college readiness, and workforce development program for Boston Public School (BPS) students. Established in 2005 through the Boston Public Schools (BPS), the LEAH Project has a mission to cultivate the power of youth leaders to transform their lives and communities through science, education, and service.  LEAH joined HRiA in 2013.  HRiA is a national nonprofit public health institute located in Boston, MA with a mission to help people live healthier lives and build healthy communities through prevention, health promotion, policy and research. Additional information is available at www.leahproject.org and www.hria.org.