Making a Difference for Kids — and a Young Scientist
By Jeremy Kim, Mobile Lab Scientist
During my time at SPU, I would poke fun at our mission statement, “Engaging the Culture, Changing the World.” I thought that it was a ridiculously bold statement of importance. However, the closer I came to entering the workforce, the more I realized that the mission statement actually meant something to me personally.
It isn’t a statement of importance, but rather a challenge to be important. After now working for almost nine months, the best part of my job is knowing that I am making a difference to the people around me.
A couple weeks ago, one of the kids I was working with looked up at me all bright-eyed and told me that I was her favorite scientist of all time. Sure, she was only 12, so she probably didn’t know that many scientists. But I like to convince myself that even if she knew Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, or even SPU’s own Eric Long, she still would have picked me. Maybe she’ll be a Nobel Laureate some day, and when she makes her thank you speech, she’ll say, “Thank you to the Science Adventure Lab and Jeremy Kim, for being the best scientist ever.”
Early during my studies at Seattle Pacific University, I came to the realization that I loved teaching. By my sophomore year, I was a teaching assistant for some of the biology classes that I had taken the year prior. From there on out, I was probably in some sort of TA position more often than I wasn’t. I graduated from Seattle Pacific University the June 2010, and was one of the lucky few who were able to find a full-time job straight out of college with work that was relevant to my studies at SPU.
I double-majored in biology and philosophy, so naturally. I was looking for a job that was relevant to these studies. By the end of June, I found myself working at Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute in downtown Seattle.
So what the heck do I do? Two days out of the week, I work in the walls of the Research Institute itself. The rest of the time, I work with two doctoral-level scientists on our Science Adventure Lab, teaching kids.
My job is unique; I think I’m the only person on the West Coast with a job like mine. The Science Adventure Lab is a custom-built 45-foot long RV-style vehicle that is literally a mobile research-grade science lab on wheels. Our mobile science lab travels around Washington state, with the goal of providing a real, hands-on inquiry-based laboratory experience to fourth through eighth grade students.
Schools are given priority based on the number of students who receive free and reduced lunch, whether a school is eligible for Title I funds, and the percentage of students that meet the minimum standard for science MSP standardized exams. This leads us to all four corners of Washington state — from the Native American reservations in Neah Bay (the most northwestern corner of the continental U.S.), to Vancouver, to the Tri-Cities.
The experiments we do with the students are completely hands-on for the kids, and are designed to be challenging and fun for them, hopefully introducing them to careers in science and health care at a young age. These experiments vary from DNA isolations, DNA fingerprinting, respiratory physiology, and (nutrition) chemistry sugar assays. Our experiments were developed to align with the teacher’s curriculum and the state science standards and are provided at no cost to the schools or teachers themselves.
I have committed at least two-years with the Science Adventure Lab, but I am worried that it will pass by too fast and soon be a warm memory, just like SPU is. I hope to move on to medical school; I want to make a life out of teaching and healing, and my current work at Seattle Children’s only makes me realize this even more. There are few jobs where one can wake up at 5:30 a.m., cold, rain obliterating the windshield, double-shot coffee with no effect, and still be able to say, “This is worth it.”
Jeremy Kim, SPU Class of 2010, received his bachelor’s degree in biology and philosophy, with a minor in chemistry. He has been involved in leadership positions at SPU in the Navigating Pre-Health Studies mentor program, which helps undergraduate science students accomplish their educational goals. He now works at Seattle Children’s Research Institute in the Health and Science Education Outreach program as the mobile lab scientist on the mobile Science Adventure Lab.
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