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ME Students Help Lead GISE Camp

Allen Liu

Allen Liu, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, and two students recruited from his Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Systems will be helping to lead the hands-on Girls in Science and Engineering (GISE) Camp this June 2014.

Johanna Heureaux and Di Wu, both of who work in Liu’s lab, showed particular interest in being a part of the program. Heureaux is pursuing her PhD in the ME department and will continue to work with Liu in his lab for the next few years. Wu is a summer undergraduate approaching his junior year at University of Alberta in Canada, where he also studies mechanical engineering. He will be working in Liu’s lab this summer only, and will complete his research at the University of Michigan in July.

The GISE summer camp program is spearheaded by the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) organization at the University and is comprised of middle school aged girls interested in pursuing fields in science and engineering. Jamie Saville, assistant director of WISE, will be in charge of the program. 

“I contacted them [WISE] because I wanted to be a part of this camp and have a chance to show some of our work as well as sharing some hands on activities with students,” Liu said.

The camp begins on June 16th and ends on June 20th. Each day, the girls spend about three hours on campus, packed with activities pertaining mainly to electrical and biomedical engineering. The first three days will be allocated to biomedical engineering while the latter two days will be dedicated to electrical engineering.

Heureux said that she is particularly interested in learning about how girls today perceive the field of engineering and hopes to mirror her own experience.

“When I was around their age, I had a teacher who had a lot of interactive demos and a lot of hands on projects for everything that we learned,” Heureaux said. “Because of that, a lot of it stuck with me and actually inspired me to pursue things like science and engineering.”

Liu has helped design a three-hour curriculum for the biomedical engineering portion of the activity spectrum. The camp has been conducted in the past, but 2014 marks the first year that Liu has participated. He has designed four activities, focused mostly on fluids, that are intended to be both engaging and educational— microfluidic mixing, microdroplet generation, microcontact printing, and fun with alginate.

“These are things we actually use in the lab except we use them at a much more advanced level,” Liu added. “But these are the fun things you can do with them that students will still be able to appreciate.”

For some of these activities, Liu plans on incorporating competition to further spark the girls’ curiosity and boost motivation to learn by offering prizes. Additionally, the slideshow created by Liu introduces the girls to the University’s BME curriculum, as well as the various careers within the field and its subfields.

“The goal of this is to expose them to an area that can inspire them to perhaps major in this particular field when they go to college,” Liu said.

Though the activities will revolve around techniques used in Biomedical Engineering, the camp remains interdisciplinary like much of the engineering field as a whole. For example, Heureaux explained that her own research, which involves building artificial platelets, fuses both mechanical and biomedical engineering.

“A lot of what I do would be considered cellular biology and molecular biology,” Heureaux added. “Nowadays, especially when you get to the graduate level, research is very interdisciplinary and the lines are blurred between different disciplines.”

Liu plans on considering ways in which he may improve the camp early on, especially for the years to come. Towards the camp’s close, participants will fill out post activity reviews so that Liu may gauge which activities, or “modules” as he calls them, were most enjoyed and which can be enhanced or built upon. 

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