GE Girls, Inc. Visit The W. Montague Cobb Research Lab
On July 13th, 2017, 30 GE Girls visited the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory (CRL) at Howard University. They were met in Douglass Hall by Dr. Fatimah L. C. Jackson, Professor of Biology and Director of the CRL, as well as a diverse team of students associated with the CRL. The team included Howard University medical students Nicholas Guthrie and Shihyun Kim, Howard University graduate student Esohe Irabor, University of North Carolina Charlotte graduate student Taiye Winful and Howard University postbaccalaureate student (and new graduate student) Mariam Mohammed.
The GE Girls program was created in 2011 to address the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and STEM-based fields. Their approach is to foster and
maintain the interest of women in STEM via early exposure to STEM-based programs, lectures, experiments, and field trips. The CRL was honored to assist in furthering the in the mission of GE Girls by serving as a STEM exposure site.
The day began with an address from Dr. Fatimah Jackson, who briefly shared the history of the CRL and the value of the free workshop that the girls were about to participate in. She urged them to consider careers in the STEM field as they participated in the workshop. This address was followed by the GE Girls’ student introductions and a pre-survey. The 30 girls were then split into three groups and sent to either the strawberry DNA extraction session, the anatomy lab session, or the creative writing lab session.
In the Strawberry DNA Extraction Session, the GE Girls extracted DNA from strawberries. The girls were led through the experiment in a step-wise fashion by Taiye (Last Name?), and many of them were able to extract DNA (picture). After cleaning up, the GE Girls received a simple de-brief lesson led by Esohe Irabor, to make sure that they understood the experiment. Highlights of the de-brief included what DNA was, where DNA is located, and an explanation of how the materials in the experiment (detergent, salt, etc.) helped to make the DNA visible to us.
In the Anatomy Lab Session, the GE Girls examined some of the skeletal remains from the Cobb Collection (CC) that were originally interred in the New York African Burial Ground (NYABG). Nicholas Guthrie and Shihyun Kim taught the girls the scientific names of various bones in the body. They identified skeletal abnormalities in the specimens and provided commentary on the diseases associated with them.
In the Creative Writing Lab Session, the GE Girls got to be members of the CRL’s “Backbones to Life” Writer’s Collective for a day. Under the direction of Miriam Mohammed and Esohe Irabor, the girls accessed their imaginations to create fictional, but scientificallyvalid and historically-credible stories. To do this, each group was provided with actual anatomical and biographical information about select individuals in the New York African Burial Ground (ABG). They then incorporated this information into their stories and shared them with other groups.
At the end of the workshop, the GE girls were given a post-survey to ask them about their experiences. Overall, the feedback was positive for each of the sessions, but it seems that the GE Girls liked the Strawberry DNA Extraction session the most.****