Life Science Opportunities:
The Citizen Science Lab
In 2014, Duquesne University hosted the Massachusetts Instituteof Technology’s International Genetically Engineered Machine(iGEM) synthetic biology competition, attracting more than 200undergraduate students from 40 research universities to Pittsburgh.Many competitors had acquired advanced lab skills throughcommunity wetlabs prior to enrolling in college.
By 2015 and in conjunction with Duquesne University, UrbanInnovation21 opened The Citizen Science Lab (CSL), designed toincrease interest in the life sciences among low-income students.Housed in the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District anddirected by Dr. Andre Samuel, a scientist with a Ph.D. in biology, thelab has trained nearly 1,900 third- through 12th-grade students usinghands on, do-it-yourself experimentation and traditional lecture-basedmethods. More than 43.5 percent of the students participate in followupsessions and retention rates nearly double for students in the DrugDesign Workshop and iGEM program.
"Through the support of Richard King Mellon Foundation, we have made significant strides in impacting the lives of middle school and high school students across the Pittsburgh region.”
More recently, Foundation funding helped a team of students from Homewood’s Westinghouse High School prepare for the iGEM competition, where they beat out students from the country’s best high schools to win a bronze medal. With a $575,000 Foundation grant and other support, CSL will open a satellite location in the South Hills to generate earned revenue—for CSL’s Hill District wetlab—by offering after school, summer, and specialized programming for third- through 12th-graders in the Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair school districts.