Pathways Summer 2019

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“Growing up, I knew I was interested in human health, but I had no idea that research was an option,” Lancman says. “Like many kids, I thought I wanted to be a doctor. But in college, I quickly learned that I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what causes disease and how scientists go about finding cures.” At our booth, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students and staff helped children don paper lab coats and explore DNA-themed activities. Children were able to see live worms with DNA mutations that affect their movement, courtesy of the lab of Malene Hansen, Ph.D., professor in the Development, Aging and Regeneration Program. Compared to normal worms, some mutant worms moved mindlessly in circles, and others remained relatively immobile— illustrating how changes in a DNA sequence can dramatically affect life. At the adjacent station, provided by the lab of Duc Dong, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Human Genetics Program, children squinted through microscopes and peered into fish tanks to observe how DNA changes can dramatically affect the heartbeat of zebrafish—one of the most powerful model organisms used to study vertebrate biology. Lancman, who works in the Dong lab, made sure he explained the exhibit in child-friendly language (he credits his 4-year-old son for this skill). “I want kids to know that science is like a puzzle,” he explains. “It takes time to put all the pieces together, but when you’re done, you can see the big picture—and that big picture can lead to improving human health.”