Walking through the MDI Biological Laboratory courtyard on a sultry August afternoon, you couldn’t help but be inspired by the depth and breadth of research from our 2021 student fellows. Forty-five undergraduate and high school students from institutions across the country, working with mentors at MDIBL and other INBRE institutions around Maine, spent 10-weeks of their summer researching the basic cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying regenerative and aging processes in various animal model systems. Their work culminates at the annual Summer Student Symposium, which was held August 4-6 as a hybrid event at MDIBL.
Each student presented their findings in a poster format and as a three-minute talk in which they described key takeaways of their research in lay terms. To accommodate off-campus students, as well as the wider community, all students shared their work in an asynchronous discussion-based poster session online and had the opportunity to host individual Zoom sessions. The MDIBL scientific community turned out to hear talks given by on-campus students and attended the in-person poster session in the courtyard.
Students learned about science communication through a weekly class that provided information, guidance, and practice communicating research orally and visually. The course was designed and taught by Abby Roche, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine. According to Roche, science communication is key in increasing “collaborative capacities in varying interdisciplinary contexts, such as with scientists within or outside their field of study, and within communities.”
The keynote address given by MDIBL alum Albert George, focused on the importance of empowering communities to enact progressive and comprehensive solutions to climate change. George was a National Science Foundation REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) fellow in Dr. John Forrest’s lab in 1994 and 1995. He now serves as the Director of Conservation at the South Carolina Aquarium and is a co-founder of the Amazon Reforestation Project. He concluded his talk with a strong call to action for students: to care, be engaged, and use their talents and ability in the lab and outside of it to innovate and care for the entire earth ecosystem.
In keeping with MDIBL tradition, after the presentations were finished, the students and their mentors gathered on the shore for a lobster bake to celebrate a productive and educational summer.