University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Office of Medical Communications

Vermont High School Biology Students Visit Vermont Cancer Center

Janet Schwarz, senior lab/research technician in pathology, right, guides an MMU student in the Microscopy Imaging Center.
Janet Schwarz, senior lab/research technician in pathology, right, guides an MMU student in the Microscopy Imaging Center. (Photo: Erin Post)

For more than a decade, Mount Mansfield Union (MMU) High School students have been coming to the Vermont Cancer Center for an interactive day of advanced learning about biomedical science and technology. A group of 40 MMU students enrolled in Bill Eschholz’s advanced placement (AP) biology class continued the tradition on Friday, May 30, 2014 when they joined Vermont Cancer Center researchers for a look at advanced genome technologies, imaging, microscopy and other hands-on learning in biomedical science.

The students’ first stop was the pathology museum at the University of Vermont (UVM) College of Medicine, where MMU alumnus and current second-year medical student Will Manning greeted the group. Like the AP biology students, Manning had visited the Vermont Cancer Center with Eschholz when he was in high school. Manning, Janet Schwarz, a technician in the UVM College of Medicine Microscopy Imaging Center and Lauren Pearson, MD, a resident in the UVM/Fletcher Allen Department of Pathology and Laboratory Sciences, led students through an interactive lesson on lung tissue. Students were able to view and handle both healthy and diseased lung tissue and learned a bit about the biology of both specimens. Bill Eschhollz, the class’ biology teacher at MMU was thrilled to see his former student instructing his current students.  Schwarz, who strategically paired Manning with the visiting students shared, “we hope students see that they too could be standing here in a few years involved in a career in science and technology.”

Tim Hunter, manager at the Vermont Cancer Center’s Advanced Genome Technologies Core, has been involved in the Community Education Outreach Program since it began in 2003. He greets students at each visit and helps them to understand the context of modern-day technology and its role in biomedical research as well as its rapid progression in the past decade.

“The partnerships with schools is an opportunity for researchers to engage students in our community and get them excited about pursuing careers in biomedical fields,” shares Hunter. “These interactions have led to student internships and we hope play a small role in opening all ages of students’ eyes as to what choices there are in careers in the sciences.”

The State of Vermont and UVM are working together to increase K-12 programming in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)—areas identified nationwide as a priority for careers of today and the future. The Vermont Cancer Center’s Community Education Outreach Program has been engaging K-12 students in a number of ways for many years, and is now joining in the state-wide effort to increase access for students throughout the state to experiences like the ones Hunter and his team bring to areas schools each year.

The MMU students were the last of 12 schools to partner with the Vermont Cancer Center’s Community Education Outreach Program in 2014, which brought over 300 K-12 students direct contact with many aspects of the science and technology behind advances in treatment of cancer and other diseases.  Next year, the program hopes to reach new students and inspire future leaders in biomedical research.

The VCC Community Education Outreach Program, which includes members of the Vermont Cancer Center and UVM College of Medicine, includes Terri Messier, Tim Hunter, Doug Taatjes Janet Schwarz, Scott Tighe, and Jessica Hoffman. 

For more information about the VCC Community Education Outreach Program contact Terri.Messier@uvm.edu.