Our flagship Community Lab at our Cambridge campus features a 1,100-square-foot dedicated laboratory classroom. Students engage in hands-on lab activities, developed in close collaboration with the Cambridge and Somerville public school systems. Since opening in 2002, more than 23,000 area students have visited the lab.
Class visits are designed to create excitement about science among middle and high school students. Participants can undertake hands-on projects, such as amplifying and examining their own DNA or determining if a mock patient can take a particular medicine based on his/her genetic profile. In 2011, 70 classes participated in the Community Lab Cambridge program.
The Community Lab offers several intensive multi-day programs during the summer. In a one-week program (Adventures in Biotechnology), students discover key biotech techniques and concepts through hands-on lab work, such as engineering DNA to code for green fluorescent protein. An advanced two-week session allows students to delve even deeper into the science and advanced technologies of biotechnology. Students might create a chimeric antibody or work with pluripotent stem cells, which can become many different cell types in the body.
The 2011 Summer Lab sessions benefitted from the nearly 50 Biogen Idec employees who volunteered their time to speak with students, serve as lab assistants and give personalized tours. Among the volunteers in the Summer Lab were our CEO, George A. Scangos, and an instructor and student from Biogen Idec’s Community Lab at Northwest University (NWU) in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China.
An integral part of both class visits and summer sessions is the opportunity for students to meet scientists and other biotech professionals to learn about their careers and experiences. Both programs culminate in a poster session for students to share their research findings with family, friends and employees of Biogen Idec.