The CASE Experience – by Ahmeda Turay

My name is Ahmeda and I will be a high school senior in the upcoming fall. I was introduced to the CASE program, Summer STARS, through the Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program in 2018. The program lasted six weeks. Through those six weeks, I experienced science experiments and techniques that I would not have been able to in my regular high school classes, such as gel electrophoresis and a wide range of scientific devices.

Summer STARS students spent most of the day in the lab. In the lab, we learned ways to keep everything sanitary and to avoid any contamination. I was introduced to the autoclave, which I had not seen before, and I was trained on how to use it and maintain it. At the beginning of the program, we started out by brushing up on basic units of measurement and how to convert them into other units of measure. Then, we learned how to make different types of agar (a growth medium for bacteria) and how to scale the measurements depending on how many plates were needed. We focused on extremophiles for our mini-research projects, which included conducting our own experiments around different extremophiles.

A highlight of the program is when the Amgen Biotech Experience Professional Development Institute (PDI) took place at Carnegie. During the PDI, I helped train DC high school teachers on biotechnology labs that they could then teach to their own students. It was important for me as a student to see that teachers must also continue to learn in order to teach us. I learned that you never stop learning, even as a teacher, and you need to learn more in order to pass the knowledge down to your students. It was interesting to see the teachers in a setting where they are the students, rather than the ones instructing me.

Before I started Summer STARS, I was not sure where specifically in the science/ health field I wanted to be. Going through the program, working with teachers, and meeting a variety of people with various careers in the STEM field, has furthered my interest in biology as the field I am most interested in studying. After Summer STARS I interned at CASE for the entire school year, and I am currently a Biotech Research Assistant at CASE for this summer where I am learning more about biotechnology and gaining important skills that I will need in my future career.

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