Mass General Research Institute Externship: Sharing Science with Our Schools

Delia Harrington (left), a 7th grade math teacher at Dearborn STEM Academy, working with a Mass General researcher in the lab

While most Boston Public Schools (BPS) children were sleeping in and enjoying their spring vacation, several BPS teachers decided to trade in their break for the opportunity to learn more about science at Mass General.

This April, the Mass General Research Institute hosted its first-ever “externship,” where BPS teachers could volunteer to be a part of a four-day experience to learn about research at Massachusetts General Hospital and opportunities to get students involved.

The group included four teachers from the Dearborn STEM Academy and one from the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers. While the externship was focused on Mass General research, it was not limited to teachers who only teach science—we had a math and history teacher join us, too!

Day one: Introduction to Mass General

Day one of the externship was an introduction to all things Mass General. We kicked things off with a presentation from the Senior Vice President for Research, Harry Orf, PhD, followed by presentations from leaders across the hospital including: Public Affairs, Global Health, the Partners Biobank, Human Resources and the Mongan Institute.

Teachers finished the day by brushing up on some Mass General history on a visit to the Ether Dome and the Paul S. Russell Museum of Medical History and Innovation.

Days two and three: Days in the life of a researcher

The hands-on fun took place on days two and three. Each teacher was assigned to a lab and had a Mass General investigator to shadow. They learned about the research our investigators were conducting and took part in the lab exercises our researchers do every day!

“I had a great time, and that’s an understatement.”

Camilla Chodkowski, 11th and 12th grade Chemistry and Environmental Science, Dearborn STEM Academy
Danielle Spencer (front) looking through a microscope in Shannon Stott’s (back) lab

“It’s not just reading about it, it’s doing the hands-on work. I felt like a real scientist putting on my lab coat.”

Danielle Spencer, 9th grade History, Dearborn STEM Academy

Teachers visited the labs of Michael Talkowski, PhD, Guillermo Tearney, MD, PhD, Lawrence Wald, PhD, Steve Haggarty, PhD, William Shaw, JD, and Shannon Stott, PhD.

Day four: Roundtable

The final day was a day of review. We loved hearing from the teachers on what went well and the possibilities they saw for the future engagement and collaboration.

“One of the things I found useful was being able to see all of the research going on in my backyard, and that I have access to this world. And it’s important for me to have access to this world, but more importantly for my students to have access to this world.” – Camilla Chodkowski, 11th and 12th grade Chemistry and Environmental Science, Dearborn STEM Academy

 “To see things from an idea to a concept, made me want to share that with my students and show them how they can translate that to life.”

Kevin Robin, 10th grade Chemistry, Edward M Kennedy Academy for Health Careers

 “It made me realize I don’t know what’s going on and it’s amazing, and the students should have more opportunities to learn about this.”

Ivelisse Santos-Rodriguez, Science Instructional Coach, Dearborn STEM Academy

Teachers enjoyed experiencing what it was like to work in research spaces, but one thing they noted was the staff did not reflect the same diversity they have in their classrooms. They said it would be easier for BPS students to see themselves at Mass General if there were more people who look like them working there.

This is why we will continue to work on our diversity efforts and increase opportunities for BPS students to be exposed to research at a young age so they can hopefully join us one day in the future.

“There are a lot of things that still need to be done, but exposure is key. All they have to know is it’s possible.”

Danielle Spencer, 9th grade History, Dearborn STEM Academy

“How can my students benefit from this? Internship and exposure. If they are in this environment, they can see themselves here.”

Kevin Robin, 10th grade Chemistry, Edward M Kennedy Academy for Health Careers

About the Mass General Research Institute
Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States. Our researchers work side-by-side with physicians to develop innovative new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent disease.
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