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Baylor College of Medicine Scholars Visit RCSNC

Updated: May 16, 2019

We at the McNair Foundation and Rutherford County Schools (RCSNC) were pleased to welcome McNair Scholars from the Baylor College of Medicine Monday and Tuesday, March 18th and 19th. The visit was part of the McNair Science Education Collaborative (MSEC).

Now in its fourth year, MSEC is an effort to expand hands-on learning opportunities and cultivate real-world connections in the medical research field for RCSNC students. The program is a partnership between the McNair Foundation, RCSNC and McNair Scholars from the McNair Medical Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Through an application process, several high school science and allied health teachers are identified annually to participate in the program. Those teachers are then with a current graduate student or postdoctoral fellow working in a McNair Scholar’s laboratory.

Dr. Ben Arenkiel (far left) and graduate students Amanda Brown and Kevin Ung (far right) visited Mrs. Greenway’s 8th grade English class, among others, at R-S Middle School


Each teacher partners with a selected graduate student or postdoctoral fellow to discuss curriculum content and develop curriculum connections through demonstrations, activities, and experiments related to current scientific research of the McNair Scholars. Many program activities will be conducted using technology resources and virtual classrooms. Participating teachers also engage in professional development opportunities that include visiting McNair Scholar laboratories at the Baylor College of Medicine. Additionally, grant funding is available for supplies and materials to support classroom projects associated with the program.


At least once annually, the Houston-based McNair Scholars visit RCSNC to speak at student assemblies, lead classroom activities, and provide professional development experiences for teachers. This year’s visit included eight scientists – Dr. Benjamin Arenkiel, Amanda Brown, Stephanie Coffin, Gary Lui, Lauren Miterko, Joshua Ortiz, Jessica Swanson, and Kevin Ung – all with varying backgrounds in medical research.

Ph.D. student Gary Lui led Mr. Clark’s 7th grade science classes at East Rutherford Middle School in discussions of neuroscience and demonstrations on heart rate monitoring


The scientists led students in discussions about the applications of science across a myriad of career fields and the various paths they took to finding their way to careers and higher education. Students also participated in science lessons and experiments including cheek swabs to extract DNA, growing bacteria collected from their hands, creating ‘robo-roaches’ by placing electrodes on antennae, and much more. After conducting experiments with her classes at Chase High School, Beth Jackson said “This collaboration allowed my students to participate in a hands-on gel electrophoresis lab to interpret a DNA fingerprint alongside a scientist who performs similar experiments in her lab on a daily basis. This visit allowed my students to see and better understand real-world science application.”

Monica Lee of the McNair Educational Foundation said, “We are very happy to be able to further honor Robert McNair in continuing to bring together two of his passions – educational opportunities for all students and cutting-edge medical research.”

Rutherford County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Janet Mason, has stated, “We are grateful for our strong partnership with the Robert and Janice McNair Educational Foundation and the opportunities this partnership creates to improve educational outcomes for our students. The McNair Science Education Collaborative is another great example of our continued focus on growing learning opportunities beyond all limits.”



Along with scientists Stephanie Coffin and Joshua Ortiz, Mrs. Roof worked with her classes at Chase Middle School in DNA extraction experiments


Dr. Ben Arenkiel works with East Rutherford Middle students on dissections