On October 14th 2017, iCAN volunteered at the Geek is Glam Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) event for the second year in a row. Geek is Glam is an annual one day event at Worcester Polytechnic Institute organized by the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. Through an engaging day of hands-on workshops and interactive career panels, the girls in grades 4-8 are introduced to new areas of science and engineering. The event aims to inspire the next generation of female scientists.

iCAN members presented the workshop: Membranes and Alcohol? Beets Me! The interactive workshop tied together the fundamental structure of cells with the concept of using a spectrometer to measure concentration. Plant cells have many organelles and inclusions, each with different roles in the cell. Membranes are important to cell survival, they allow the cell to keep these important parts separate from one another. When cleaning, humans intentionally break cell membranes with alcohol or other chemicals to kill bacteria. In order to see the membranes break before our eyes, each team of students worked with an iCons alum to set up an experiment. In beet plants, there is a membrane-bound vacuole that contains a water soluble red pigment. This pigment gives the beet its characteristic color. The students added a small cube of beet to increasingly higher concentrations of alcohol. Students were able to see the solution change colors and then make observations about which concentration of alcohol was the most damaging to the beet.

Sean McGrath, UMass-Physics ’16, gave an interactive presentation on the concepts of concentration and using spectrometers to measure concentration. The girls than applied this concept using a phone application to measure the absorbance of the beet solutions.

Teams of students working with iCons Alumni to set up their beet experiment.

In addition to the workshop, the iCAN team also spoke to groups in an educational career panel. Our alumni team ranged from fresh graduates to UMass Class of 2014! Our team shared their diverse jobs, career paths, and experiences from a wide breadth of roles: Isaac Han (UMass ’14) Research Associate at Wyss Institute, Meaghan Molloy (UMass ’15) Medical Student at UMass Medical School, Olivia Roberts-Sano (UMass ’15) Research Assistant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Alyson Warr (UMass ’15) Graduate Student at Harvard University Division of Medical Sciences, Samantha Giffen (UMass ’16) Graduate Student at Harvard School of Public Health, Sean McGrath (UMass ’16) Software Engineer at KAYAK, Angie Essa (UMass ’17) Clinical Research Coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harli Weber (UMass ’17) Clinical Research Coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital.