Encouraging STEM Careers

The 2024 Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) Chicago Symposium brought 110 middle school girls from Chicago Public Schools and 20 parents to the University of Illinois Chicago campus for the STEM event hosted by the University of Illinois Cancer Center. The daylong event kicked off with a welcome address from Cancer Center Associate Director for Career Enhancement and Training Larisa Nonn, PhD, and a keynote address from Erin Amico, President and CEO of the Chicago Academy of Sciences and its Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Throughout the day, the girls participated in creative STEM-themed workshops with everything from LEGO Inspirations to the chemistry of fluffy pancakes. The Cancer Center facilitated the “Colon Cancer Awareness: Meet CECIL the Giant Colon” workshop. Cancer Center Community Engagement and Health Equity Office staff members Associate Director Jeanette Gonzalez, MSHRMD, and Clinical Research Coordinator Brenda Soto gave participants tours of CECIL, educating the girls about the importance of a high fiber diet and colon cancer screening, which is valuable information they can pass along to their family members.

STEM Shows Off

The girls also learned about the basics of DNA sequencing and base pairing by creating their own secret message making DNA bracelets guided by Nonn and University of Illinois College of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program student Kate Alexander. University of Illinois College of Medicine Department of Pathology Resident Heidi Christian, MD, and UI Health Nurse Practitioner Lisa Nuccio, MSN, ran a beginners pathology lab where students got to compare healthy and cancerous cells through powerful microscopes. CRTEC Senior Research Specialist Julia Henkins, MPH, supported the workshops as well.

Additionally, Ifeanyi Beverly Chukwudozie, MBA, MPH, Director of Cancer Research Training and Education Coordination (CRTEC) at the Cancer Center, participated on an education panel arranged for parents to learn how to support their children’s future academic needs.

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