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#IAmNYAS: Julie Nadel

What do you get when you cross a geneticist with a science educator? A fantastic role model.

Published August 16, 2016

#IAmNYAS: Julie Nadel

Academy Member Julie Nadel, PhD is no stranger to scientific outreach. As a Genetics and Education Fellow with the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG), she has been responsible for a diverse range of initiatives from promoting opportunities for public engagement around genetics to creating lesson plans for high school students. Julie has also volunteered for the Academy as a mentor in the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program. Get to know Julie and find out why she believes mentoring reignites her own passion for science.

What are you currently working on?

My Genetics and Education Fellowship at NHGRI consists of three rotations through different education programming environments. My first rotation was with NHGRI's Education and Community Involvement Branch, where my biggest project was working on the expansion of our National DNA Day programming. This included coordinating events throughout the country in celebration of National DNA Day on April 25th, and utilizing a number of social media platforms to promote public engagement opportunities for discussing genetics and genomics. My rotation in the education department at ASHG has been primarily dedicated to creating a bioinformatics lesson plan for high school students in collaboration with the NIH Library. In August, I am excited to start my third rotation at the New York City Department of Education working with the STEM Matters NYC Citywide Programs team.

What has been one of the most rewarding moments of your career?

During my time at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, I co-chaired the Community Garden Branch of the BODY (Bronx, Obesity, Diabetes, and You) group. We worked with a local Bronx school, PS89, to create a field trip for their 4th graders to visit our garden and plant the garden's seedlings. The field trips consisted of five stations the students rotate through, including a planting station, nutrition scavenger hunt, painting their own planter, a Tae Bo activity, and a strawberry DNA extraction (because a geneticist can't plan an outreach activity without some DNA). After three exhausting, but very successful, days of field trips for approximately150 students, we received a pack of beautiful, brightly colored construction paper thank you notes with hand-drawn pictures from each of the students who had visited the garden. Their enthusiastic gratitude and excitement about the project was so rewarding after putting so much work into the program. I still cherish those notes years later.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love hiking with my dog, an unknown hodgepodge of breeds named after a great female scientist, Rosalind Franklin (Rosie for short). This year I also hope to take up backpacking.

Why do you mentor?

I mentor because I find myself the most excited about science when I am helping a young student find their own passion for STEM. As researchers, we often get trapped in the tiny details of our own projects, and seeing science through the eyes of an inspired student making a discovery can allow us to stand back and remember the majesty of the process.

I think one of the most important aspects of the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program is showing students that scientists are normal people just like them. We start our semesters with the students by doing a "draw a scientist" activity, and almost all students draw a man with crazy hair in a lab coat. That doesn't reflect the majority of scientists, and changing public perception of the makeup of our field is important for accessibility. I want students to look at me and my peers and be able to imagine themselves growing up to be our colleagues because they see themselves in us.

If you'd like to join Julie in inspiring the next generation of scientists and thinkers, you're in luck—the 2016-2017 application for the Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program is now open! Help a middle school student discover their own scientific identity by becoming a mentor today.

Read other #IAmNYAS profiles here.