Harlem [hearts] science!

Hi, it’s Sarah, and I’m so happy to be back writing for Science Cheerleader! Thanks again for the support as I earned my Ph.D.!

Let’s get to it….Harlem residents will be in for quite a treat on Saturday, October 2, 2010, during the  Global Harlem Science Parade (a satellite event, part of the USA Science and Engineering Festival), when New York City high school students march along Adam Clayton Boulevard (from 115th to 125th Street) displaying the results of their summer scientific research projects sponsored by the Harlem Children Society.Harlem Children Society places underprivileged minority students in paid internship positions in laboratories across New York City.  This year, parade marchers will be presenting research that covers projects such as motor neuron development in ground worms (Columbia University), primate DNA sequencing (NYU), and abnormal cell growth (New York Blood Center).  The students participating in this event represent several different minority groups that are typically underrepresented in science – 40% of the students are African American, 30% are Hispanic, 10% are Native American, and more than 66% are female.

The streets of Harlem may seem like an unlikely place to cultivate interest in the sciences, but changing that perception is exactly the mission of this program.  In 2000, Dr. Sat Bhattacharya, founder and president of Harlem Children Society, decided that in addition to his work researching genetically-targeted chemotherapy, he would try a new experiment – bringing his work to the community of Harlem by offering three students from the Bronx summer internship positions in his laboratory.  This opportunity had a significant impact on the students (all three went on to pursue graduate degrees and careers in medicine) and an even greater impact on the community, as what started as a small program has now expanded to include around 400 students annually.  The organization targets low-income and minority high school students (95% minority and more than 58% female) and encourages them to pursue careers in the STEM disciplines. The summer hands-on program  includes paid research internships at leading institutions, as well as weekly workshops where students present their research and hear lectures from visiting scientists. In addition, Dr. Sat has expanded and customized the program adopted by the Harlem Children Society to meet other local needs at rural and urban sites across the globe, including on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, and in countries like Tanzania and Indonesia.

Dr. Sat initiated the Harlem Science Street Fairs and Festivals seven years ago as a way for the students to celebrate their accomplishments at the end of their summer research program and share what they have learned with their community.  “The parade and street fair encourages a dialogue about science in Harlem and teaches students how to communicate what they have learned to everyday people,” says Dr. Sat.  The Harlem Science “Yatra” Parade will run north from 115th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard to 125th Street and begins at 11:00 am on Saturday, October 2, 2010.  Following the parade, the Harlem Science Fairs and Festival will begin at 12:00 pm at the New York State Office Building Plaza, and will feature student research presentations / poster board competition, a live webcast of Harlem Children Society science presentations from around the globe, music, dancing, and a science fashion show.