Bremerton High School teacher gets special research training at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

BHS Biology teacher Kelli Andrews places newly created crystals into an X-ray machine at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center July 17. - Photo by Steven DeDual
BHS Biology teacher Kelli Andrews places newly created crystals into an X-ray machine at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center July 17.
— image credit: Photo by Steven DeDual

Bremerton High School science students in Kelli Andrews' classroom will be conducting real research experiments during the upcoming school year thanks to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Science Education Partnership.

"I saw this program as a great opportunity to bring some amazing lab experience and equipment to my classroom," Andrews said.

Andrews, who teaches honors and advanced placement biology at BHS, said she heard about the SEP program from a colleague and applied last year. She was chosen by her mentor, Greg Taylor, based on her application letter and began training earlier this month.

Andrews started her adult life by spending six years in the Army. She then began college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Later, she moved back to Washington and earned a bachelor's degree in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Washington before obtaining her master's degree in secondary education from Old Dominion University.

The training she is receiving from FHCRC is "far from the typical seminar style of training," she said. The SEP program gives teachers knowledge, training in lab techniques and management skills that can be directly applied to the classroom.

"I did not learn about them by watching a PowerPoint," she said.

She spent the first few days "in the role of a student again and actually did the labs that I will be doing in my classrooms next year."

During the next phase of training she moved into the research lab with her mentor scientist, Taylor, where she "got to do some amazing things such as determine protein structure through X-ray crystallography."

In the last phase of the training, the staff at SEP help teachers develop some curriculum for the classroom using lab kits the center has available for loan.

"As a member of SEP at Fred Hutchinson I will have access to many lab supplies at no cost, including consumable items," she said. "Many of the supplies are the same as what is currently being used in research labs across the world. Certainly, even a fraction of the supplies would wipe out the science department budget in a heartbeat."

The plan for Andrews now is to have Taylor be a part of the classroom. She is hoping he will be able to come over to BHS to talk to the students about different subjects in biology or maybe show up on lab days to help. Either way, she said the help she will receive from the SEP staff is tremendous.

"If I am in the middle of a lab and things are happening that I have a question about, I can call SEP and they will troubleshoot the problem for me and give me an immediate response," she said.

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