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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Somerville High School Named Biotech Innovative School of the Year!

Somerville Public Schools
Education • Inspiration • Excellence

Somerville High School accepted the “Innovative School of the Year Award” at the recent MassBio Annual Meeting Awards Luncheon held at the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 40 Edwin Land Boulevard, Cambridge MA. In attendance to accept the award were Chris Angelli, Somerville High School Biotech Teacher with Headmaster Tony Ciccariello, Science Department Head Sebastian LaGambina, and Director of Guidance Carolyn Richards.

Details: The Innovative School of the Year recognition is awarded to a Massachusetts High School that has distinguished itself through exemplary innovative biotechnology educational programming. Somerville High School has had a five year partnership with the MassBioEd Foundation since being selected a 2005 BioTeach school. As such Somerville has integrated biotechnology laboratory instruction into its biology curriculum. In addition, Somerville has been a member of the Life Science Career Development Initiative and has developed a school based multidisciplinary team of administrators, guidance staff and science teachers who work together to both inspire interest in life science careers and to integrate science instruction and career awareness in collaboration with community and industry partners. Other achievements of Somerville High School include.

• Creating a Biotechnology 1 and Biotechnology 2 sequence of courses to support student interest in biotech beyond biology. 20% of these courses are taught by guidance counselors and focus on careers with a special emphasis on biotech. These popular courses include researching biotech companies, searching for summer biotech working and learning opportunities and the creation of the students’ own biotech company.

• Enhancing an existing science lab at Somerville High School to serve as state-of-the-art biotechnology laboratory in support of these courses.

• Securing partnerships with Boston University, Tufts University, and the University of Rhode Island. The University of Rhode Island (URI) partnership has opened the doors to the new state of the art biotech facility at the University and brought graduate students from URI to Somerville. Through the program with Tuft’s, Dr. David Walt’s laboratory staff work with Somerville students on "Getting the Dirt on Somerville," a project where students collect soil samples from around the city. They isolate bacteria from the soil, extract the DNA, and send the DNA to be sequenced using next generation sequencing technology called Illumina; Somerville High is the first high school to use this platform. When sequencing data is returned to students, they then use the NCBI BLAST web site to determine which organism they had isolated.

• Developing arrangements with MIT and BHCC that open the doors for Somerville students to college level experiences and course work that pave the way to STEM futures.

• Collaborating with Biogen Idec, Broad Institute, Whitehead Institute, and W.R. Grace to support student research projects and the development of scientific careers aspirations among students.

• Connecting with Tuft’s Chemistry Organized Outreach Program (CO-OP) and securing grant money to purchase biotech and biochemical equipment through a scientific lending library for area high schools. Tufts students come to Somerville High and do experiments (a) to examine soy products that were purchased at local supermarkets to see if they were genetically modified, and (b) to isolate the high school students’ mitochondrial DNA and use markers on the DNA to determine where their ancestors came from.

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