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  • Teaching Teachers: STEM Careers in Navy Medicine Research

    SAN DIEGO – High school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers from Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho toured the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) Jan. 15, to see a working research lab in action and gain insight from researchers actively working in STEM professions.

    The 31 teachers who visited NHRC were participants in the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust “Partners in Science” program, which held its annual meeting in San Diego this January. The program helps high school science teachers expand their knowledge about cutting-edge research so they can take that information back into their high school science classrooms, promote hands-on science education, and get their students excited about science.
    “We really enjoyed hosting the teachers and opening up new possibilities they can share with their students who are interested in future STEM careers,” said Capt. Rita Simmons, NHRC’s commanding officer. “For many students, combining a science education with a military career can be a great way to do some incredibly innovative research, be of service, and pay for a college education. There are many paths to a career in science, and serving as a military scientist conducting health research can be very rewarding and offer experiences you can't find anywhere else.”
    As part of the tour, teachers visited the molecular and microbiology labs to learn more about the infectious diseases research being conducted at NHRC. They also had an opportunity to visit the Warfighter Performance Lab that focuses on research in sleep, environmental physiology, injury recovery, and human performance optimization.
    A highlight of the tour was a visit to the Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment (CAREN), which is used in the Warfighter Performance Lab for research to support the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors, prevent injuries, and promote resilience.  During the tour, the teachers had an opportunity to talk with military and civilian scientists, learn what they do on a day-to-day basis, and find out how they went from student to scientist.
    One teacher who particularly enjoyed the tour was Cynthia McIntyre, an honors and advanced placement biology teacher at Everett High School in Washington state.
    “Everett is home to a military base and we have the Navy right there, so this provided an opportunity for me to learn more and be able talk to my students who are interested in the science field about what you can do in the Navy,” said McIntyre.
    When asked what her favorite part of the tour was, McIntyre had a hard time choosing one thing. 
    “I could live in a lab and never come out,” said McIntyre. “I’m a molecular biologist and a microbiologist, but I loved the [Warfighter Performance] lab. That was really cool.  Just thinking about all the ways you can monitor and quantify sleep and movement, and learning about the CAREN was amazing.”
    According to McIntyre, an important insight gained from the tour was that STEM career opportunities are continually expanding and that there is something for everyone.
    “When we were learning about the CAREN, I thought about all the different support staff that is needed, from computer coders  to the people who design the equipment itself to the scientists,  and realized there is a place in STEM careers for every single kid,” said McIntyre. “Even if you love science, but don’t want to do the science, there’s still a place in the field so you can be around it and still enjoy it.”