April 15, 2013
By Donna Peck
|Malena Juarez. age 10|
The prospect of holding a real human brain and peering at cells using a high-powered microscope attracted hundreds of children and their parents to the Brain Discovery Fair at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The annual event, sponsored by the Kansas City chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, was held on Saturday, April 13.
Among those taking advantage of the opportunity to hold a preserved human brain in her hands was 10-year-old Malena Juarez, who is a fourth grader at J.A. Rogers Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo.
"It was so cool," Malena says. "It was much lighter than I thought it would be."
Malena was also impressed when a neurology student who was helping at the Brain Discovery Fair pointed out that the person whose brain she was holding had died of a concussion and showed her the bruised area of the brain that had been injured.
The Brain Discovery Fair also had tables with information and demonstrations about Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurological disorders.
Students also had the chance to tour research labs in the Hemenway Life Sciences Innovation Center where they could create a slide with rat brain cells and look at the cells under the microscope.
Among those giving children and their families tours of the research labs was Doug Wright, Ph.D., a professor of anatomy and cell biology at KU Medical Center. Wright says he looks forward to the Brain Discovery Fair every year.
"It is so rewarding to see how excited kids can get about science," Wright says. "I was fortunate to be exposed to the joys of science at an early age, and I'm just trying to do the same thing for these kids."
Wright says in addition to showing students the labs and helping them look at cells through powerful microscopes, he also tells them about the wide variety of science careers there are today.
"They have a lot of questions about what it's like to be a scientist," Wright says. "And I tell them the truth...it's a wonderful job!"