On May 3, 2016, a group of 25 scientists from the Danish Stem Cell Center, (DanStem), visited the Danish high school, Nørre Gymnasium, bringing with them, high quality microscopes, cell samples and fun activities.
The aim was to give the students a sense of academic stem cell research. Over 110 students and teachers were out of their normal schedule and dedicated the whole day to science.
DanStem scientists are addressing basic research questions in stem cell and developmental biology, aiming to answer questions and develop new strategies to treat diabetes and cancer. Hence, the Stem Cell Day was devoted to different methods of stem cell research, but not less important, created an informal atmosphere where students could communicate freely with young scientists to learn about career paths and get inspired for their own future.
The first Danish Stem Cell Day took place in April 2015 at Christianshavns Gymnasium, in collaboration with EuroStemCell (an EU project focusing on disseminating stem cell research). This experience had a very positive impact on the students, teachers and scientists.
After the successful first event Assistant professor Mette Christine Jørgensen and Research coordinator Simone Wenkel received a generous donation from Lundbeckfonden that is now helping the Center to maintain repeat this unique outreach activity and create more opportunities in disseminating the science.
“It is an extraordinary experience to see the high school students exposed to different methods of stem cell research for the first time” says Mette Jørgensen, “we were met with a lot of curiosity and interest when we told them about our research and showed them zebrafish, mice, chicken and frogs embryos in the microscopes.” The exchange was very enthusiastic and all participants had vigorous discussions.
There are many ways in which stem cells can be used in research. A primary goal is to identify how undifferentiated stem cells become the differentiated cells that form the tissues and organs, an aspect which could be risky if not handled carefully. That angle led to an interesting ethical discussion which ended the day.
According to Mikkel Birk Biller, a student in the first year of gymnasium, the day has been exciting and added a great value to the normal academic training.
DanStem hopes to expand its dissemination activities in the future, to train more students and also science teachers, and by that expand the knowledge about the great potential of stem cell research.