New Center Will Give Students and Other Citizens Ability to Impact Health and Disparities in Their Communities

Dr. Marcus and Dr. Gillespie

Dr. Adam Marcus and Dr. Theresa Gillespie.

June 2016

The Center for Advancing Health and Diversity through Citizen Science, a collaborative project led by Theresa Gillespie, PhD, professor in the departments of surgery and hematology and oncology of Emory University, and Adam Marcus, PhD, associate professor of the Emory Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, has received a five-year, R25 Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) from the National Institutes of Health R25 Science Education totaling nearly $1.2 million.

SEPA awards encourage the development of innovative educational options for pre-kindergarten to grade 12 teachers and students from underserved communities in the form of courses for skills development, research experiences, mentoring activities, curriculum or methods development or informal science education exhibits, and outreach activities.

The grant will be applied to funding the development and enactment of the center's Citizen Science Health and Diversity (HD) curriculum, a no-cost initiative that will be offered to the entire state of Georgia, which experiences high rates of cancer and chronic diseases as well as disparities, with a focus on urban underserved and rural Title I schools and students who are under-represented in science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) fields, including girls and minorities.

"We want to challenge our K-12 students and not underestimate their capabilities by giving them the opportunity to do real research that can enhance human health and reduce disparities in their own communities," says Dr. Gillespie. "The center hopes to increase diversity in STEM by encouraging under-represented individuals and populations to pursue STEM careers."

"Citizen Science is an approach to scientific research in which the general public, including students, collects and analyzes data for specific projects in collaboration with professional scientists," says Dr. Marcus.

The Citizen Science HD agenda will involve after school STEM programs, a state and nation-wide effort to develop citizen science endeavors that emphasize human health and reducing disparities, and summer programs for middle-school girls that explore computer science, data mining, mentoring, and STEM experiences. It is estimated that Citizen Science HD will attract thousands of students in Georgia, the U.S., and internationally through projects such as pollen counting and the effect on pediatric asthma, calculating the role of food deserts in community obesity and chronic disease rates, and using Big Data to answer research questions.

This award partners with the Georgia Department of Education; the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute (ACTSI) of Emory University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Georgia Institute of Technology; Winship Cancer Institute; the Emory chapter of the Association of Women in Science; and other Emory investigators.

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