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Benjamin Licht and Ilan Rich from Classical High School learn how to
treat samples in Dr. Yinsheng Wan’s lab.

Skin cancer scholar earns grant to expose high school students to research

Providence high school students are getting an advanced biology lesson from a leading researcher. The researcher, a Providence College biology professor, is potentially getting 20 future colleagues in the sciences.

Both parties are winners, thanks to a grant from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology [ASBMB].

Dr. Yinsheng Wan, PC professor of biology and an expert in the effects of ultraviolet radiation on skin aging and skin cancer, is one of 11 scientists from universities across the country to receive the ASBMB’s Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement in Science [HOPES] grant. 

The HOPES grants are awarded to research scientists and K-12 teachers who are collaborating to bring hands-on science learning methods into classrooms. Funding for the grants is provided by the National Science Foundation [NSF].

Along with Dr. Scott MacBeth, a biology teacher at Classical High School in Providence, Wan is presenting lectures to 20 Classical students about mitosis and other approaches of cell division throughout the school year.

He also is teaching students how to culture cells and prepare the cell samples for confocal microscopy. MacBeth will bring his students to PC to prepare slides, observe them under the microscope, and learn the stages of mitosis process. At the conclusion of the project, the students will prepare a poster to showcase their work to their peers at Classical.

A history of mentoring STEM students

Since Wan came to PC in 1999, local high school students have been a constant in his research lab.

“A high school teacher would approach me or my sons would recommend somebody,” he explained. “I wouldn’t turn anyone away. It’s my passion to teach these students.” 

When he learned that the ASBMB and the NSF were starting a program that would link colleges and high schools to promote STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics], Wan realized there was an opportunity to serve local students.

“I realized that this country’s science programs, which are great, teach kids who have no interest in science,” he said. “The government has been trying very hard to promote STEM and induce high school students to go into science fields in colleges.”

Nobel laureate among awardees

Among the grant recipients are scientists from universities across the nation, including MIT, the University of Arizona, the University of California at San Diego, Tulane University, the University of New Mexico, and Saint Joseph’s University. One of the grant recipients, University of Massachusetts Medical School biologist Dr. Craig Mello, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2006.

Wan believes that cultivating passionate, accomplished scientists bolsters the program’s goal to increase the number of students who ultimately enroll in a STEM discipline in college.

“I hope the students can be inspired to be interested in biology or science, in general,” he said. “Science is interesting. It’s attractive. It’s not boring at all. I want them to find a passion for it.”

— Chris Machado

 

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