Today’s guest blog comes from Linda Dearth-Monroe, a chemistry teacher at Warren Central High School and a recent participant in the Lilly Summer Research Experience for Teachers (LSRET).
This past spring, my department chair came to my classroom with a special opportunity. Leonard Winneroski, a research chemist at Lilly, was searching for individuals to participate in a summer research program for teachers.
My philosophy is if you are going to be a good science teacher, you need to experience good scientific research. With that idea in mind, I agreed to do the program, thinking that I would spend my summer learning about Alzheimer’s disease. I quickly found out that it was much more than that. Beyond the research, I had a chance to network with Lilly scientists from various disciplines who helped me understand how different kinds of chemists and biologists work together to discover promising candidates for medicines.
In the first week, I completed safety training and saw various techniques and procedures used at Lilly. I worked closely with Leonard. We conducted lab procedures, and he explained synthetic reactions and mechanisms. I remember asking him, “How do we know this is the correct target? How do you decide what structure to make?” I learned that collaboration with professionals in other areas is really important to the process.
By the second week, I was doing the lab procedures myself. I set up reactions, isolated and characterized reaction products, and much more.
Another important thing I learned this summer was the long and difficult process that is required to discover and convert a drug candidate into a drug that sits on the pharmacy shelf. It takes lots of time, patience, and perseverance.
Just as difficult is the process of establishing a pathway to “make” young scientists. This program opened my eyes to the outreach initiatives Lilly is doing for STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) and to help build the pipeline.
Lilly is involved in the Indiana Science Initiative for grades K-8. It’s a program that lets teachers request science kits for classroom use and partner with Lilly scientists. Lilly also supports Project Stepping Stone and Young Innovators Quest. Both programs encourage students to explore career opportunities in STEM areas and offer young people hands-on experience.
With this opportunity, and as I begin my 28th year as a high-school science teacher, I feel I have more tools in my career toolbox to help guide my students. I also have a bigger network of people who I can call on for advice and help.
I am thankful for the Lilly leaders who gave me this opportunity. I appreciate their encouragement and enthusiasm for STEM outreach. It has been an amazing summer of science and networking, and I can’t wait to get back to the classroom and share my learnings with colleagues and students.