CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Today brought word that Biogen Inc. intends to expand its Community Lab science learning program, together with the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Biogen and MIT are now launching the new online Biogen-MIT Biotech in Action: Virtual Summer Lab.
“Today, more than ever, we need to encourage, support and inspire young people to better understand and appreciate the link between biotechnology and health outcomes, hopefully igniting curiosity and a spark to learn more,” said Alfred Sandrock, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president, Research and Development at Biogen. “While we have always believed that science can be done anywhere, the current public health crisis has pushed us all to consider new ways of learning and to think differently about how we collaborate with others. Lemelson-MIT is allowing us to enrich our Community Lab program so we can continue to foster an appreciation for science, and reinforce the point that science is accessible, even if you’re not physically in a lab.”
This virtual lab will reportedly offer 400 Massachusetts and North Carolina high school students a first-hand experience in biotechnology, and provide the opportunity to learn directly from — and be mentored by — leading scientists at Biogen and MIT. Admission to the summer program is free for high school students in grades 9 through 12, with preference given to underrepresented students in Massachusetts and North Carolina.
Biogen and MIT anticipate that most of the students to be enrolled are from low-income households and groups historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students are also recruited from several Biogen Foundation grant recipient programs, including the STAR Initiative — a program the Biogen Foundation launched in 2018 to help catalyze the development of local STEM ecosystems in Cambridge and Somerville.
“Lemelson-MIT research has validated our beliefs about the importance of teaching STEM through hands-on real-world projects and opportunities to engage with STEM professionals and other adults. We also know that hands-on doesn’t have to mean in-person, and mentoring can happen effectively using web-based collaboration tools,” noted Michael Cima, Lemelson-MIT Program’s faculty director and associate dean of Innovation for MIT School of Engineering. “We are excited to join forces with Biogen and their unique expertise combined with ours to help another generation of students discover their passion for invention in biotechnology and neuroscience.”
Biogen has worked with many leading institutions to bring scientific content and engaging experiences to students through the company’s online hub, called the Virtual Community Lab. Students, parents and teachers can access and experience free online resources, including tutorial videos of science experiments that can be done at home and other educational materials. The Community Lab has physical locations in Cambridge and Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina, and the program has served more than 55,000 students to date.