MIT and Biogen launch virtual learning lab for underrepresented high school students

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The Lemelson-MIT Program (LMIT) announced the launch of Biogen-MIT Biotech in Action: Virtual Summer Lab — a new online learning lab for high school students underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The collaboration pairs Biogen’s established Community Lab science learning program with LMIT’s 25 years of experience preparing students to be the next generation of creative and inventive problem solvers. The summer virtual lab will offer 400 Massachusetts and North Carolina high school students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM the opportunity to learn directly from, and be mentored by, leading scientists at Biogen and MIT.

The five sessions of the weeklong online summer program will teach students about biotechnology, and the unique ways neuroscientists and inventors use STEM knowledge to solve problems that matter. These problems include diseases of the brain like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“Lemelson-MIT research has validated our beliefs about the importance of teaching STEM through hands-on, real-world projects and opportunities to engage with STEM professionals and other adults.” says Michael Cima, Lemelson-MIT Program faculty director and associate dean of innovation for MIT’s School of Engineering. “We also know that hands-on doesn’t have to mean in-person, and mentoring can happen effectively using web-based collaboration tools. We are excited to join forces with Biogen and their unique expertise, combined with ours, to help another generation of students discover their passion for invention in biotechnology and neuroscience.”

“Today, more than ever, we need to encourage, support and inspire young people to better understand and appreciate the link between biotechnology and health outcomes, hopefully igniting curiosity and a spark to learn more,” says Al Sandrock, executive vice president, research and development, Biogen. “While we have always believed that science can be done anywhere, the current public health crisis has pushed us all to consider new ways of learning and to think differently about how we collaborate with others. Lemelson-MIT is allowing us to enrich our program so we can continue to foster an appreciation for science, and reinforce the point that science is accessible, even if you’re not physically in a lab.”

Admission to the summer program is free for high school students in grades 9-12, with preference given to underrepresented students in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, and in Wake and Durham counties, North Carolina. Students are also recruited from several Biogen Foundation grant recipient programs, including the STAR Initiative, a program the Biogen Foundation launched in 2018 to help catalyze the development of local STEM ecosystems in Cambridge and Somerville.

For 18 years, Biogen’s Community Lab program has been focused on exciting more young people about science and inspiring the next generation of STEM leaders. Students gain a deeper interest in health sciences, biotechnology, invention, and innovation, and expand their knowledge and laboratory skills in STEM. The Community Lab has physical locations in Cambridge and Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and has served more than 55,000 students to date.

For 25 years, the Lemelson-MIT Program has been committed to inspiring the next generation of creative and inventive problem solvers. The program continues to work with K-12 students across the United States and to recognize emerging collegiate inventors whose inventions could impact important sectors of the global economy with cash prizes.

For more information on the Biogen-MIT Biotech in Action: Virtual Summer Lab, visit biogen.com/communitylab.

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