A new center is now open in the lower level of the State Hygienic Laboratory building in Iowa City. It’s called the Center for the Advancement of Laboratory Science, and coordinator Drew Fayram, says it’s aimed at anyone with an interest in advancing the future of laboratory science.
“The center has a couple of conference rooms that can accommodate 150 people…and the really unique aspect of the center in my opinion, is the training laboratory with is situated just across the hall from the conference rooms,” Fayram says.
The center is said to be the only facility of its kind in Iowa — and one of few in the nation — that combines a functioning laboratory and a conference center for educators, students and other members of the community.
“The training laboratory is comprised of a laboratory classroom that can accommodate about 24 students or participants as well several specialty rooms off that main room that allow our learners to gain experience with some higher level scientific processes,” he explains.
One of the experiences that is a favorite of Fayram’s is a process that extracts the DNA from a strawberry. “It’s a good learning tool to show students how we can actually use physical and chemical processes to break something like a strawberry — which is very recognizable — down to the molecular level,” Fayram says. “And then we can actually take out the DNA, which is the building block of life, for them to see and to feel and play with.”
It’s a type of hands on learning that introduces students to how science works. “We can kind of incorporate lessons about what is DNA and how does it work and why is it important, and those type things,” Fayram says. The students also find out that the science they are doing is a key component of the work that’s done every day in the rest of the building. “We always loop it back to the work that we do here at the Hygienic Lab, and tell them how we use DNA when we’re testing for diseases,” Fayram explains. “Things like when we use the DNA from bacteria, or the RNA or DNA from viruses to help us identify which organism we are working with. And then that information can help doctors.”
The state has been focusing attention on the STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math areas to get more students interested in the fields. Fayram says they work very closely with the STEM Council and do a variety of activities with student groups related to STEM. He says about 400 students and 40 teachers had already used the site for camps and training even before its grand opening last week. Fayram says anyone interested in the center can contact him via email at: [email protected] or call him directly at 319-335-4864