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Mentorship is crucial in cultivating the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators. It allows young minds to explore fields often perceived as challenging and intimidating with newfound confidence and curiosity. In the modern age of innovation and technology, STE(A)M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) mentorship in particular has taken on an unprecedented level of importance.
Recently, Vector Laboratories had the privilege of hosting students from Newark Memorial High School (NMHS) as part of our ongoing partnership with the local school located just a few blocks away from our office. This visit was a hands-on journey into the world of life sciences and biotechnology, offering these young learners a glimpse into potential career paths they might not have considered.
The visit was an interactive tour of our facilities including front office spaces and labs led by John DiVittorio, a key member of our team. DiVittorio explains, “The students had the opportunity to ask questions and converse with a panel made up of various Vector members.” He took a hands-on approach, teaching the students how to use a micropipette, a common laboratory tool that’s not often taught at the high school level.
The idea for this visit was born out of our desire to engage with the community and the students’ curiosity about careers in biotech. Previously, members of our team visited NMHS to discuss their roles and journeys in the life sciences and biotechnology fields. This previous visit to NMHS’s science center sparked the students’ interest, and we seized the opportunity to fuel this curiosity further.
DiVittorio was eager to participate, as the visit was not only an educational opportunity for the students but a rewarding one for the mentors. “I have always liked working with students. I am always looking for ways to encourage younger generations to keep their options open and try new things.”
Another key participant of this visit was Shuhui Chen, PhD, who gave students a day-in-the-life perspective of a scientist. Chen shared her career path, daily tasks, and even discussed a project she did for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology conference. “When I was their age, I wish I’d had the chance to talk to people in different fields and learn their jobs. As I have been interested in sciences and technology, I would like to give back to the STEM community to help students in a way that [is similar to how] my mentor helped me.”
Both DiVittorio and Chen’s passion for STE(A)M mentorship stems from a shared belief in its transformative power. DiVittorio believes that such mentorship can give students the confidence to explore STE(A)M in ways they may not have on their own. Chen, a beneficiary of a college mentor-mentee program herself, shares this sentiment, acknowledging the variety of resources and career direction she received from her own mentor.
Adding to the collective voice, Lisa V. Sellers, PhD, CEO of Vector Laboratories, stressed, “One of the most important takeaways from the discussion with students was the importance of being open-minded, exploring your interests, and finding what suits you. There are many paths to biotech without necessarily being drawn to biology—artists, writers, computer enthusiasts, mathematicians, and musicians can all end up in the field. We’re all driven by the camaraderie we share as a team and the desire to make a positive impact on human health and well-being.” This sentiment reinforces the idea that STE(A)M careers are not one-size-fits-all and can indeed be pursued by individuals from diverse backgrounds and interests.
At the heart of this visit was the desire to highlight the potential impact that individuals working in any field can have on students’ lives. This influence can range from a simple one-day shadow experience to a more in-depth summer internship. Regardless of the level, encouraging students to explore new avenues can have a lasting impact on their careers and lives.
As we reflect on the success of the NMHS visit, we’re reminded of the vitality of STE(A)M mentorship at the high school level. It is an essential tool for cultivating curiosity, breaking down perceived barriers, and fostering future innovators. It’s our hope that this partnership with NMHS and other similar initiatives will inspire students to dive into the vast ocean of opportunities that STE(A)M offers.
We invite our readers, regardless of their fields, to consider the role they can play in nurturing the next generation of STE(A)M professionals. It’s not just about creating future scientists or engineers; it’s about empowering young minds to navigate their future with confidence, curiosity, and a sense of boundless possibility.