Gannon University: Urban University Junior Biologists

Gannon University’s Department of Biology in partnership with Urban University and the Erie City Mission brought its second annual Urban University Junior Biologist program to 10 middle- and high school-level students from Sept. 23 to Nov. 18.

The Urban University Junior Biologist program connects local public school students with Gannon University biology faculty and students, Urban University representatives, and AmeriCorps VISTA members through mentorship and educational opportunities to inspire emerging leaders in STEM fields.

Each week brought biology activities to students in the program that all revolved around the theme, “Answering Big Questions with Small Organisms.”

The program’s topics included an exploration of the impact of photosynthesis on climate change, the superpowers of small organisms as relating to biotechnology and antibiotic resistance, and how a small soil-living worm can be used to explore the mysteries of neurobiology.

The experience was a novel service-learning experience led by Quyen Aoh, associate professor of biology at Gannon and founder of the STEM outreach program Feeding Minds, for Gannon biology students in the science communication and youth mentoring course.

The course helped students apply concepts learned in the classroom to real-world events and pressing global issues while developing leadership skills and learning the importance of effective science communication to help others make informed decisions.

RoseMarie Lackey, director of Youth Ministries at Erie City Mission, said the partnership created long-lasting impact for participants.

“The partnership between Gannon and the Urban University Youth Leadership program maximizes our efforts to not only impact the youth of our community, but create a lasting mindset that together we can do more,” Lackey said.

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