“Science is exciting. There is no room for routine and boredom, but quite enough of it for inquisitiveness, never-ending questions, and search for answers. Besides the fact that science allows us to better understand the world around us, it is also a source of tremendous satisfaction and an incentive to grow as a person”, describes her work Prof. Anna Żaczek, whose research is focused on the biology and molecular diagnostics of cancer. How should we inspire representatives of the young generation to follow in her footsteps? This is the goal of the project titled “Science is People” carried out at the Medical University of Gdańsk (MUG).
For almost two years now, several-minute videos have been published regularly at the website www.naukatoludzie.gumed.edu.pl. In the clips, MUG scientists talk in an accessible way about the challenges they face and the research they undertake with the aim to create better future chances for doctors to help individual patients and societies as a whole. They explain among others how research into the mechanism of cancer metastasis can lead to new therapies and tools to monitor the progression of the disease; who and how has improved the spinal surgery system for treating scoliosis; and why optimal ecosystem management is an important factor in controlling the spread of zoonotic pathogens.
“We are motivated by two key goals”, explains Dr Agnieszka Anielska, the project’s coordinator for the popularisation of science and its originator. “First, we want to remind society that behind every discovery that could result in e.g. implementation of a new treatment or increased effectiveness of an existing one, there is a person – her or his knowledge, competences, intention, and passion. By contributing to the development of individual fields of knowledge, scientists have a genuine impact on our quality of life. Second, we would like to convince young, talented people that academic career, albeit demanding, could be an interesting and attractive path for them”.
The latter objective is pursued through a semester-long development programme for secondary schools students who associate their future with the broad domain of medicine, pharmacy, or biotechnology. They spend one weekend per month in university and hospital labs, meeting MUG lecturers and researchers, who not only share their knowledge in the disciplines of their expertise, but also demonstrate how this knowledge is generated.
The students visit anatomy labs, find out about state-of-the-art tools and trends in surgery, and learn about the process of organising non-commercial clinical trials aiming e.g. to optimise the treatment of patients with a heart attack. They find out what 3D models are used for in medicine and how the transplant process is organised, try their hand at medical simulation labs, and learn about the capabilities of modern diagnostic laboratories. “Under the watchful eye of the scientists, the students were even able to carry out an experiment on their own – they isolated and analysed miRNA”, adds Agnieszka Anielska. “This was part of a class where we discussed the opportunities and risks associated with the use of gene therapy and RNAi as well as the ethical dilemmas that accompany the development of science and technology”.
Aware of their impact on the future of students and the development of their passions, the Medical University of Gdańsk did not forget about the teachers, either. Teachers who have classes with science-oriented groups (biology and chemistry or medical sciences) took part in a series of meetings with MUG lecturers, with whom they discussed contemporary challenges in teaching. In addition, they were invited to attend a series of workshops in which experts in the field of educational innovation shared their experiences.
“We believe that our programme is the beginning of a long-term collaboration and we already have some ideas on how to develop it. Over the past few months, teachers and lecturers have created a unique platform where they can exchange knowledge and ideas. This will certainly benefit young people who are passionate about medicine”, says Prof. Miłosz Jaguszewski, Chair of the project’s Scientific Council.
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The project “Science is People. Promotion of scientific achievements and scientific career on the example of MUG employees” was financed by the Ministry of Education and Science under the Social Responsibility of Science programme.
“Science is People”