Good Intentions in Bad Times

I attended an event last night where around 20 girls in 7th and 8th grades were given a tour of Novavax, a Rockville, Md.,-based biotech company that produces vaccines. The event was organized by Women in Bio, a nonprofit organization that encourages women to advance their careers and build successful companies in the life sciences industry.  Five women scientists from Novavax led the tour of the company’s labs, explaining the various steps in making vaccines, from production, to scale-up, to quality control. The girls even got to peer through a microscope at some stained cells. The women scientists also talked about how they got interested in science and encouraged the teens to find something they’re passionate about. I think the scientists from Novavax and organizers from Women in Bio were more excited about the event than the girls, who were abnormally quiet for a bunch of teenagers. The scientists, who had all volunteered their time after work, tried really hard to make what they do sound exciting—even comparing the process of making vaccines to the process for making beer. Perhaps not the best way to relate to this particular crowd. The scientists tossed around plenty of big words, like GMP, chromatography, centrifuge, and electrophoresis. I think much of it was way over these girls’ heads, and I’m not sure how much of it actually stuck. Afterwards, I asked some of the girls whether they understood everything they had heard. They nodded yes and scurried off to get pizza and cake. Ah, kids will be kids. Whether or not the girls learned anything last night, it was still good to see outreach programs like this being offered, especially at a time when so many other programs are being cut. novavax.jpg A group of girls peer into a room containing several bioreactors used for vaccine scale-up.

Author: Linda Wang

Associate Editor, Chemical & Engineering News

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