You, Too, Can Be a Scientist

Ms. Sara Anderson teaches PLTW and chemistry courses in the Biomedical Sciences Academy in Edgewood, Kentucky, where she has taught since the fall of 2013. She attended The Ohio State University where she earned a bachelor of science degree in biology with an emphasis in microbiology. While there, she participated in a program to teach undergraduate biology labs. That opportunity helped her to discover her love for teaching. Sara then earned a master’s degree in secondary education at Indiana University. Ms. Anderson also has industry experience as a corporate trainer for Nielsen. She has trained in all four classes of PLTW Biomedical Science and is certified in both AP Chemistry and Biology.

What I love most about the PLTW curriculum is the purposeful emphasis on how anyone – regardless of gender, socioeconomic background, current GPA, or any other personal barrier – can become a member of the biomedical sciences field. As a woman in the STEM field, I absolutely love this approach. I'm grateful that the program where I teach is filled predominantly with female students with nearly unlimited ambition. Tell them that orthopedic surgeons are mostly men because that's where power tools are, and my female students are going to zero in on that as a career to show people what they can do. (For the record, my male students are awesome and extremely driven as well.)

Students with low self-esteem in science and math blossom in this environment and learn that they, too, can be a scientist, a biomedical professional, and an engineer. The possibilities are only limited by what you think of yourself, and this curriculum is fabulous at changing those mindsets that have been established in my students' minds by introducing them to an entire array of career possibilities.

When students enter my room for the first course in the series pathway, they are only familiar with occupations like nurses and doctors, nothing more. I'm now happy my students research which colleges are the best to attend in order to become genetic counselors, biomedical engineers, and pathologists.

We have students enthusiastic to start in on year-long research projects. It is something they always think in September that they'll never be able to pull off by May, but always do.

And each year, our advisory board members are always impressed in the growth from year-to-year. This is possible by each year's worth of students raising the bar on what is possible and achievable in our program. While researching, they are given the opportunity to find mentors in our advisory board, which is made up of local professors and biomedical professionals.

We have had students coordinate with our PLTW Engineering teachers to 3-D print new medical devices. Students carry out research with HeLa cells at nearby Northern Kentucky University with a microbiology professor who is on our advisory panel, and many put in attempts to find natural alternatives to help fight the rampant antibiotic-resistance issue facing modern medicine and our society.

Through our program, in just their first year, my students walk in excited but not too knowledgeable, to ending the year with new dreams of who they want to be when they grow up. They’re familiar with an amazing amount of scientific technology, and they have experience presenting to a board of biomedical professionals on their year-long, original research project. By the time they have finished their fourth course and capstone class for the series pathway, they graduate with knowledge and hands-on experience that I personally didn't receive until I was a junior in college.

I absolutely love teaching PLTW curriculum and watching doors open for my students because of it.

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of this guest author.