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By Jacqueline Lisk
| July 3, 2020
Science is more than a subject that is taught in school. It is a tool for discovery — a means for solving complex problems. That is the way you need to frame STEM if you want to ignite a love of science in students, says Meghan Gardner, founder of Guard Up’s Guardian Adventures, a STEM summer camp program in Burlington, Mass.
The benefits of those discoveries — and the joy of discovering them — should not be reserved for the affluent. Organizations are using science to drive change that is for and by everyone.
Science by all
Guardian Adventure camps create hands-on, discovery-based learning experiences by inviting children and teens to become characters through interactive storytelling. To solve aspects of the story’s mystery, or to “power up to the next level,” campers need to solve STEM challenges. It doesn’t feel like learning, it feels like an adventure.
The camp actively recruits people from different backgrounds to create a more diverse environment, and to help ensure everyone has a chance to explore science as a possible career choice. After all, science has the power to not just improve the beneficiaries’ of its discoveries lives, but the scientist’s life, as well.
The camp partners with local science programs and organizations that promote women and minorities in STEM. This is important to Gardner because her two daughters “basically grew up at the camp.” Her oldest is now a professional artist who uses science in her work, and the youngest is pursuing her PhD in particle physics.
The camp also partners with local shelter systems to bring children from homeless shelters into programs to foster diversity in STEM and install a love of science in these children.
“When you look to diversify the people who are involved in solving a challenge, you are going to get a wider range of solutions — things you wouldn’t come up with if you came at the problem with a singular approach,” she notes.
Cemvita Factory, a Houston, TX-based company, combats climate change by developing economical carbon-neutral solutions for heavy industry. It was founded by brother/sister duo Moji Karimi, a petroleum engineer, and Dr. Tara Karimi, a multidisciplinary scientist.
Dr. Karimi spent much of her career studying biological systems to find ways to use natural principles, such as photosynthesis, to engineer more environmentally-friendly solutions for people. Meanwhile her brother’s experience in the energy sector has helped the company tailor its solution for this sector. Their varied backgrounds and ability to work across disciplines allows the company to thrive and do good for the world.
“We figured if we could come up with a really good platform, it would help these companies implement some sort of a solution and help us make a real change,” says Astrid Countee, chief of staff at Cemvita.
The company’s core breakthrough is a carbon-negative process created in its patented CO2 utilization platform. The platform uses CO2 as the carbon feedstock to produce valuable products such as chemicals intermediates and polymers. The company is also building out its mining division.
“Mining supports a lot of other industries, so being able to help them take steps towards being carbon neutral or carbon negative can make a huge impact,” Countee explains.
She adds that Cemvita’s discoveries have implications for deep space exploration and could potentially be used as an in-site resource utilization (ISRU) solution on Mars.
Science for all
In addition to being a tool for everyone, science should benefit everyone, regardless of race, gender, location, or economic status. Andrew Cournoyer, vice president and director of the Access Experience Team at PRECISIONvalue, notes some of the most meaningful healthcare innovations are improvements in access and affordability. He uses Spark Therapeutics in Philadelphia, PA as an example.
“I’ve been impressed with how Spark Therapeutics has taken its $425K (per eye) gene therapy for a form of retinal dystrophy that can lead to blindness and worked with payers to make it affordable and accessible,” Cournoyer says. “To accomplish this, Spark Therapeutics devised outcomes-based contracts and payment models that share risk (i.e. reimbursement based on drug success or failure) and/or spread payments out over a period of time. These types of contracts are difficult to implement and Spark Therapeutics, a company with less than 500 employees, has helped to pioneer these methods.”
Clinical researchers can help ensure their treatment and diagnostic products benefit a wider, more diverse population by investing in more culturally-diverse research. This will help ensure everyone can benefit equally from advances in life sciences.
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