Education

Academies at Sacramento State give high schoolers taste of careers

Professor Heather Brown instructs a summer academy class on the biotech industry at Sacramento State in July. Get Bright with Biotech: the Biology of Glow is one class from the Summer Academies at Sacramento State, and students spend the week completing hands-on experiments.
Professor Heather Brown instructs a summer academy class on the biotech industry at Sacramento State in July. Get Bright with Biotech: the Biology of Glow is one class from the Summer Academies at Sacramento State, and students spend the week completing hands-on experiments. aseng@sacbee.com

What makes a jellyfish glow?

A group of Sacramento-area high school students now knows it’s a protein that shines green when exposed to ultraviolet light. They handled glowing petri dishes filled with bacteria containing the protein as part of Get Bright with Biotech: the Biology of Glow, a weeklong program at Sacramento State.

The class is among those offered through the Summer Academies at California State University, Sacramento. In its fourth year, the program introduces students to potential careers in a variety of fields, including science, fashion design, emergency response and public service. The next session will run July 13-17.

The academies are open to all Sacramento students who have completed eighth grade. Classes cost a little less than $300, although scholarships are made possible with donations from the California Endowment and the Invictus Foundation.

Specific courses include Civic Duty, which exposed students to the inner workings of the three branches of government. The Fire Academy explored the training required to get a job in the emergency or medical fields. In the upcoming Multimedia Journalism class, students will learn how to produce high-quality video with their iPhones and Android phones.

Biology was the most interesting class I have taken. I believe that after taking this class, I might have a better understanding of it and a clearer notion of whether I want to take this as a field in college and whether I want to major in it.

High school senior Kiera Hansen, explaining why she attended the biotechnology class

Many classes have become popular enough to require a waiting list, while the session on forensics garnered enough interest to warrant a third section. A number of the science-oriented classes expose students to instruments, techniques and experiences that normally must wait until college.

“Biology was the most interesting class I have taken. I believe that after taking this class, I might have a better understanding of it and a clearer notion of whether I want to take this as a field in college and whether I want to major in it,” senior Kiera Hansen said when asked why she attended the biotechnology class.

The class was taught by Heather Megan Brown, a faculty member at Sacramento State. “We need more kids in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) going through the pipeline to fill the jobs in the field,” Brown said. In the science academy, she was assisted by a group of recent college graduates and graduate students with science backgrounds.

In one experiment that ran throughout the week, students learned about and used green fluorescent protein, which is found in jellyfish and glows green when exposed to UV light. This protein can be introduced into bacteria in a process known as transformation. It will then cause the bacteria to shine bright green in the presence of UV light. The protein is often used in biotech academic labs and research institutions to make proteins, cells and even tumors visible without a microscope or other instruments.

The week culminated in a tour of Arcadia Biosciences, a company with headquarters in Davis that studies how newly developed agricultural products affect the environment and consumers.

The tour and hands-on experiments serve as an introduction to new techniques and help to inspire the next generation of scientists with novel ideas going into the lab.

“I think that anything that we have, it could always be better,” said junior Gabby Agar.

Katie L. Strong: 916-321-1101, @katielstrong

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