UCI Scientist for a Day: Inspiring Young Minds and Fostering Diversity in STEMM

June 13, 2023

Recently, a group of 6th grade students from a dual-language immersion program at an Orange County elementary school had an extraordinary opportunity to become “UCI Scientists for a Day.” This all-day event, organized by Assistant Professor Roberto Tinoco, aimed to introduce the students to the world of scientific research, provide valuable insights into potential careers in science and promote diversity in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) fields. The visit, sponsored in part by the Dunlop School Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, showcased the positive impact such experiences can have on young minds.

Diversity in STEMM is crucial for fostering innovation and creating a more inclusive society. Professor Tinoco recognized the importance of reaching out to young students and introducing them to scientists who are passionate about their research. The event featured faculty members from the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department, including Associate Professor Katrine Whiteson, Assistant Professor Dequina Nicholas, Assistant Professor Christopher Halbrook, Assistant Professor Travis Wiles, Assistant Teaching Professor Rachael Barry, and Professor Tinoco himself. Professor Tinoco’s ability to engage with the students in Spanish further emphasized the significance of their language skills and highlighted the importance of diversity in science.

The visit began with a tour of the UC Irvine campus and various lecture halls, offering the students a glimpse into the vibrant college environment. They were then led to a research laboratory, where they learned of cutting-edge research and interacted with PhD students from Professor Tinoco’s lab. This hands-on experience allowed the students to see science in action, igniting their curiosity about the possibilities within the field.

Meeting with faculty members was a highlight of the visit. The professors eagerly shared their career journeys and research interests with the students, demonstrating the diverse paths one can take in the field of biology. By exposing the students to successful scientists from various backgrounds, the event aimed to broaden their perspectives and challenge stereotypes about who can pursue a career in STEMM.

Professor Tinoco understands the pivotal role that exposure to college experiences plays in shaping students’ aspirations. By organizing the “UCI Scientist for a Day” event, he sought to inspire the students to consider higher education and potentially pursue science-related careers. Through engaging discussions and personal interactions with faculty members, the students gained valuable insights into the possibilities and opportunities that await them beyond high school.

The impact of the event extends beyond inspiring individual students. By emphasizing the importance of recruiting local students, the visit strengthened the ties between UC Irvine and the community. It illustrated the university’s commitment to fostering a fruitful partnership and supporting educational opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds.