Boston University CityLab, a biotechnology learning laboratory for middle and high school teachers and their students, has received a five-year, $1.3 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This grant will allow CityLab to develop, implement and evaluate a new curriculum for high school students that explores genome editing and builds awareness about the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice in STEM and the biomedical sciences. The grant to Boston University CityLab is the only new SEPA award made to a Massachusetts institution in 2022.
CityLab, a partnership between Boston University’s School of Medicine and Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, was first funded by the NIH SEPA program in 1991 at the inception of the program and is one of just a few programs that have been continuously operating since that time. The new grant project, “Mystery of the Crooked Cell 2.0: CityLab’s Next Generation Socioscientific Approach to Gene Editing,” addresses the imperative that NIH’s pre-college activities focus on biomedical workforce preparedness, especially for underrepresented minorities (URM).
This project will expand CityLab’s “Mystery of the Crooked Cell” hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum supplement that focuses on the molecular basis of sickle cell disease by incorporating state-of-the-art gene editing content that is immersed with socioscientific reasoning (SSR). “This project will reach close to 600 local URM students and, through planned web-based dissemination of the finished curriculum, will reach thousands of students,” explained principal investigator Carl Franzblau, PhD, professor of biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine and the founder of CityLab.
According to principal investigator Donald DeRosa, EdD, clinical associate professor and science education program director at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, an “SSR approach places science content in a meaningful social context and motivates students to take ownership of their learning.” SSR skills include realizing the complexity of the content and context of an issue, analyzing an issue from multiple perspectives, seeking out sources of bias in data and considering how and whether scientific investigations can advance understanding of an issue.
“Genome editing is becoming part of the physician’s toolkit, so teaching young people about this important and rapidly advancing field will prepare them to be informed patients and, we hope, will position them to enter careers in the biomedical sciences or health professions,” highlighted principal investigator Carla Romney, ScD, director of research for CityLab.