Biotech Futures - A College Exploration Event for BioTeach Students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (II)

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Biotech Futures is a college and career exploration program designed for students who are interested in biotechnology and life science college majors and careers. It exposes students to the educational opportunities and diverse fields of study in college/university STEM programs through presentations and hands on laboratory experiences. Students learn about current challenges facing scientists and engineers, including creating new medicines and treatments for disease, improving food production, coping with climate change, developing renewable energy resources, and remediating environmental degradation. 

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute:


Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is a private research university primarily devoted to the instruction and research of technical arts and applied sciences. WPI's 14 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, management, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, leading to bachelor's, master's and PhD degrees. WPI's faculty works with students in a number of research areas, including biotechnology, fuel cells, information security, materials processing, and nanotechnology. 

Sample Biotech Futures Agenda:

  • 8:00 am - Registration and refreshments
  • 8:30 am - Welcome and overview
  • 9:00 am - "The Science of Jell-O" presentation by Matthew Micari, M.A.
  • 10:00 am - From Genes to Proteins Lab/Where's that Flower Lab
  • 11:00 am - Lunch and keynote presentation by Tyler DeWitt, Ph.D.
  • 12:00 pm - The Electric Slide Lab
  • 1:00 pm - Campus Tour/Presentation
  • 2:00 pm - Students Depart

Lab Descriptions:

From Genes to Proteins - Deciphering genes, visualizing cells, and discovering therapeutics. The advent of molecular biology, ability to sequence genomes, and discovery of fluorescent proteins has revolutionized biology enabling us with the ability to understand gene function, examine cells in real time, and develop better therapeutics.  Students will learn about and have hands-on exposure to the “central dogma” of biology, the process of going from DNA-RNA-protein.  Students will address the links between DNA/gene function, neuronal circuits and organismal phenotypes by carrying out behavioral experiments, and use microscopy to learn how fluorescent proteins can be used to identify cells, cellular structures and in screens for new therapeutics.

Where’s that Flower – Functional neurobiology in pollinator minibrains.  Insect pollinators produce 1/3 of the food that we eat and contribute approximately $40 billion to the US economy each year.  The ability of flower-visiting insects to carry out these important pollination services depends on the ability of their tiny brains to process a tremendous amount of sensory information from the environment.  Students will learn how the brain translates sensory stimuli into behavior.  Students will also participate in a hands-on lab activity related to how pollinators learn and remember important information about flowers.  Finally, students will use a computer simulation to predict what happens when bees’ cognitive functions are impaired by environmental toxins.

The Electric Slide. Solar cells and cyclic reactions are used to demonstrate how electrons move in chemical and biological systems. Students will create their own nanocrystalline solar cells based on titanium dioxide, ITO coated glass slides, and some organic dye. Students choose between something from daily life (like raspberry juice) or a known functional dye compound (phthalocyanine) to put together their solar cells and show that they generate electrical current. While students work on their projects, we will set up a cyclic chemical reaction demonstration so that they can all observe the visible changes as the reaction cycles back and forth between reactants and products.

Target Audience:

The Biotech Futures program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute is designed for high school sophomores and juniors who have expressed an interest in STEM and the life sciences. Recommended group size is  20-30 students per school, although we might be able to accommodate smaller and larger groups. We require that students are accompanied by at least one school representative. Guidance counselors are welcomed to attend this event.


MassBioEd will reimburse participating schools for the cost of bus transportation for their students, substitute teacher coverage for their teachers' involvement during the day (up to three teachers per school), and all costs associated with the event. Please note that schools must make their own transportation arrangements. To apply for reimbursement please complete the Biotech Futures Reimbursement Form and submit as instructed by June 20, 2014.


Registration is open to BioTeach schools only. To see a list of BioTeach schools, click here

Schools will be considered for participation in Biotech Futures on a rolling basis once all registration materials have been received. Priority will be given to schools that have not participated in the Biotech Futures program within the last two years. For returning schools, only students who have not previously participated in the Biotech Futures program should be registered to participate in this event. 


For more information about the Biotech Futures, please contact BioTeach Program Manager Nadia Prokofieva at


Thursday, May 29, 2014
8:00 am - 2:00 pm


Teacher Professional Development Workshops


Worcester Polytechnic Institute
100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609

Level of Knowledge

High school sophomores and juniors

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