Camp offers insights on regenerative biology

Students from rural Wisconsin high schools modeled, sampled, and pipetted their way through lessons on regenerative biology at the Rural Summer Science Camp.

“I’ve always thought regenerative research was pretty cool, knowing it’s more of a newer technology,” says Luke H., a senior at Mercer High School. “I thought ‘I have an opportunity to go and look at it. Now’s a great time to do it.’”

Hosted in June and July 2014 at the Discovery Building on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus, topics ranged from stem cell utilization and tissue engineering to epigenetics.

“It is a really unique experience to bring the rural school districts to UW–Madison in this rigorous way,” says Dan Murphy, an outreach coordinator for the Morgridge Institute for Research. “We’re doing some unique science experiences here in a field that Madison is really world-renowned for.”

The Discovery Outreach team builds camp curriculum around the expertise of collaborating researchers, giving the students an authentic, relatable view of current activities. Guest speakers included campus scientists like Tim Kamp of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center, and Bill Murphy of the BioInspired Materials Laboratory.

Now in the camp’s eighth year, an increase in demand and generosity of donors allowed for two sessions this summer, bringing students from 10 rural school districts to Madison. Teachers choose a maximum of four students from each school. Traca Skogstad has been sending her daughter, a junior at Eleva-Strum High School, to science camps for about the last five years.

“Our goal for her was to try different sciences that she might enjoy, and see if she could focus in on one or two areas to look at for colleges,” Skogstad says. “It’s hard to know what to do when there really aren’t careers in a rural area that she might be able to mentor with someone on.”

Murphy says this camp tries to provide that career perspective and give students a window into the world of research opportunities on the UW–Madison campus.

“They get a first-hand experience from top researchers in the field actually doing that research,” Murphy says. “Progress in research isn’t always as fast as we want, but it is still very exciting and necessary. That gives the students some idea that they really have a job to do if they want to go into this field.”