Michigan DNA Day: building connections between scientists and classrooms

By: Christina Vallianatos

Picture what a scientist looks like. What comes to mind?

You’re probably conjuring images of white lab coats, safety goggles, and beakers filled with fizzing liquids and colorful chemicals. Maybe you’re thinking about Albert Einstein, with his wild hair and groundbreaking theories. Or perhaps Sheldon Cooper, the logical and narcissistic nerd made famous by the sit-com The Big Bang Theory.

Our perception of scientists, from the way they dress to the way they act, makes them seem unapproachable or even off-putting. They seem like a unique species and not much like us at all.

But shhh! Let me tell you a little secret: Scientists aren’t different from us at all! I would know – because I am a scientist, too!

The Michigan DNA Day (MI DNA Day) program aims to dispel these common misconceptions about what it means to be a scientist by bringing young researchers out of the lab and into high school classrooms across our state. MI DNA Day is entering its second year, adding to a rich history of other state– and national-level programs that all aim to promote learning of, and excitement for, the sciences.

Typically celebrated on April 25th of each year, Scientist Ambassadors (i.e. young scientists performing research in Michigan) visit local MI classrooms to both present interactive lessons about exciting topics in genetics and share their own experiences with science. Our scientists are athletes, dancers, musicians, adventurers, foodies, movie buffs, and so much more! They come from a variety of backgrounds, from countries around the world, united in their love of all things science. MI DNA Day aims to enrich classroom learning by giving students a personal connection into the world of science, and even opening future doors for them into scientific careers. The next time they think about what a scientist is, they’re less likely to conjure the image of a mad scientist and more likely to see themselves fill that white lab coat.

At MI DNA Day, we love to showcase how science is integral to our everyday lives. We strongly believe science is for everyone, and anyone can be a scientist! And we have a team of diverse Scientist Ambassadors to prove it. MI DNA Day has partnered with MiSciWriters to feature a number of the Ambassadors that will be visiting high school classrooms this upcoming DNA Day. Over the next few months, you can read about our outstanding Ambassadors and the research they are conducting in our MI DNA Day Spotlight blog found at our website, Facebook page, Twitter@MIDNADay, Instagram@MichiganDNADay, or through the MiSciWriters blog.

We’re so excited to bring Michigan into the DNA Day family and hope you can join us on our journey as we spread our passion for science across the state!

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