“It has become much clearer to me just how much is possible for our generation to achieve.”
Those are the words used by North Crawford senior Ethan Dull to describe a unique science workshop that he and four other North Crawford students attended recently.
The Regenerative Biology camp was hosted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and exposed select students from rural schools to campus life and the field of regenerative biology. The camp was developed by the Morgridge Institute for Research, a private interdisciplinary biomedical research organization affiliated with UW-Madison.
“Regenerative biology involves taking stem cells and differentiating them to grow into the different cells of the body for transplanting into a patient,” Dull described. “Using tissue from the person’s body eliminates the need for immune suppressing drugs to keep the body from rejecting a transplant.”
Held mainly at the Discovery Building on the UW-Madison campus, Dull and fellow students Willa Dworschack, Jared Smith, Jacob Bransky and Kal Randall joined 15 other rural Wisconsin students for the four-day camp. The 20 students attended lectures and conducted lab activities led by leading researchers in the fields of stem cell utilization, tissue engineering, epigenetics, 3-D printing, computational biology and more.
The students worked in the lab to conduct stem cell passaging (the process of removing cells from one culture dish and replating them into fresh culture dishes) and model stem cell differentiation. They also worked with techniques of cryopreservation and tissue engineering. Over lunch, top researchers gave lectures in these fields.
“This was a very rigorous week,” said North Crawford science teacher Linda Dworschack, who accompanied the students. “The materials were very in-depth, so the students had to be conversant in biology already. They had required reading beforehand to ensure everyone started out on the same playing field.”
The program offered two sessions with five schools chosen per session. Each school was allowed to select four students.
“The North Crawford science department met and looked at our top seniors (academically),” Dworschack said. “We had five amazing students, but could only take four, so we assigned one as an alternate, drawing names from a hat to choose who went.”
Because one of the other schools ended up leaving a space open, that alternate was lucky enough to go.
Because of the generosity of the Madison Community Foundation, the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Melinda Grunow, and Fritz Fischer, the camp was offered at no cost to the participants, according to Dworschack. With shrinking populations making it a challenge for rural districts to staff science departments, this program hopes to encourage rural students to enter careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
“This is a competitive program, but we can reapply to participate in two years,” Dworschack explained. Of course the North Crawford science teacher intends to reapply for the program that she characterized as exciting.
“Participating in this made me realize how vast the field is and how nearly unlimited the possibilities in the research environment are,” said Dull, who plans to study biology when he goes to college.
It appears the local students found it exciting as well.