Like every year, a nationwide effort is made to offer girls and also boys the possibility to get to know professional areas and jobs, which they might not typically consider after their school career. The aim and concept of the Girls’ and Boys’ Day is to broaden the participants’ horizon on career options beyond gender specific clichés. As the German Research Center for Health and Environment, the Helmholtz Center in Munich supports the endeavor to motivate young girls and boys to look beyond traditional gender-specific professions, not least, because the center itself takes much responsibility in scientific education of young researchers and gender balance.
On April 26, 2018, the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC), as part of the Helmholtz Institute for Lung Biology and Disease, invited five girls and two boys from different schools in and around Munich to learn about the lung and about a scientist’s life in the field of medical sciences. After an introduction to the institute, the laboratories, and current lung research challenges, the students were encouraged to take up pipettes and plunge right into real scientific experiments. As if they were born scientists, the girls and boys isolated primary mouse lung cells for cell culture, learned about advanced in vitro cell culture techniques, and isolated DNA from vegetables and fruit.
Execution of all these experiments makes hungry! During the pizza lunch with all scientists involved, the girls and boys took their chance to ask their questions on, among others, career decisions and received advice for their own educational and professional path. Some participants even prepared questions for the organizers, which testified their interest and their active participation.
As a grand finale, and since this naturally follows a good lunch, the scientists made fresh ice-cream from blended strawberries and chocolate with the help of liquid nitrogen – very yummy! The ice-cream even attracted others from the institute passing by the corridors!
All scientists that performed the experiments that day enjoyed the time together and were happy to have been able to contribute and motivate the girls and boys for new routes in their educational and professional career. For us, it was really great to have had the girls and boys around and to have passed on some of our knowledge, particularly the fun part of our job. We were not only happy to hear that after the event most participants could imagine a career in science or field-related jobs but also that one or two took the chance to learn about their options even though they learnt that science might not be their field of choice.
- Maximilian Strunz