Background of the Essay Contest
The Community Outreach Committee is constantly trying to make biology more widespread in San Diego. Our annual essay contest gives us an opportunity to impact high school students in particular, encouraging them to think about biology in a larger context and helping them to work on science communication skills. The winner of the contest is featured along with their essay in the winter edition of the SQ Insider, while the runner-up’s essay is published online at www.sqonline.ucsd.edu. Both students are invited to the UCSD Division of Biological Sciences’ annual research showcase in the spring. This is a great opportunity for high school students to think about biology not as an isolated field but rather as a subject with many applications and connections across multiple fields.
For inquiries or ways to participate, please contact:
Community Outreach Chair
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Prompt: One thing that scientific discoveries are capable of doing is creating new jobs. For example, the discovery of DNA helped introduce the occupation of genetic counselor, a person who assesses an individual’s risk for hereditary conditions.
Write a one-page paper discussing a biological discovery–either one that has already been made or one that has yet to be made and the potential jobs that can be created as a result. How would said job affect the world?
For the Essay Contest flyer, click here. For the Essay Contest submission guidelines, click here.
This year, we decided to tackle an issue at the forefront of bioethics discussions: biotechnology. Scientists in this interdisciplinary field have made some amazing advances that benefit society, like creating Golden Rice, modified rice that has more vitamin A than normal rice to combat blindness in poorer countries. However, with new advances comes with new possibilities for ethical debate, like whether research into certain organisms should be allowed, or whether there are negative unforeseen side effects of positive advancements. In this way, we help students become better scientists by asking them to think beyond the immediate or intended effects of research.
Prompt: Biotechnology is a rapidly growing and important field of biology. Advances in biotechnology have resulted in cures for diseases, more efficient processes for biofuel production, and more nutritious crops, and much more. Biotechnology has the potential to help society approach new and pressing challenges, but what are ethical and societal issues these advances may create, and how can these issues be resolved?
In our second year of the Essay Contest, we noticed environmental issues were being heavily discussed in the news, and thus decided to use that for our topic. We asked students to write about environmental biology and integrate that knowledge with another area of interest to demonstrate that biology can be heavily involved with other topics like medicine, engineering, or art. This approach also reframes students’ conceptions of biology to think intersectionally and across disciplines in a time when cross-department research and partnerships are growing. We were excited to receive multiple submissions from students at Serra High School, Gompers Preparatory Academy, The Preuss School, and San Diego High.
Prompt: For thousands of years, humans have been dependent on our planet’s resources to survive and continuously improve our quality of life. This highly one-sided relationship has significantly disturbed the natural world. Among other issues, changes in landscapes and ecosystems, shifts in weather patterns, and depletion of natural resources have elicited a call-to-action to reduce our ecological footprint. The integration of environmental biology into subjects like engineering, education, and policy offers non- traditional solutions to this modern day challenge. Write a response about what you believe to be a pressing environmental issue and how you think a solution can be reached through the intersection of biology and other disciplines. Topics include, but are not limited to, conservation, sustainability, medicine, engineering, research, public health, policy and law, writing, education and art.
Last quarter, we, the Community Outreach Team, successfully completed our first project: a high school essay contest. Interested high school students wrote and submitted a 500-750 word essay about how they wish to incorporate biology into their future, and each essay was evaluated based on creativity, content, and presentation. We narrowed down the essays to the top three, which were then distributed to the SQ core staff for further evaluation. The staff members picked the best two out of three essays; these essays were presented to Hermila Torres and Dr. Gabriele Wienhausen of the Biological Sciences Department, who would provide feedback and ultimately decide the winner and the runner-up by the end of Week 8 of Winter Quarter.
E3 Civic High School was one of the several schools that participated in the contest. We visited the school and met with teachers Jeffery Newman, Noel Leon, Mason Shaner and Dean Sheila Krotz. During the visit, we gave a presentation on the process of the essay contest. The focus of the meeting was to work with the faculty to decide what the best way to promote and implement this contest at E3 would be. The teachers all agreed that this was something that could be promoted in the science and writing departments and could possibly be made into an assignment for students to work on over the winter break. All of the faculty at E3 were extremely receptive to the importance of having students work on a project that integrated both science and writing. Also, giving their students the opportunity to become published was extremely exciting. E3 was eager to participate and even invited us back in the future to cover the biology/science related projects that they would be working on later during the year.
Prompt: Biology is a subject which is intimately tied to other fields of study. There is enormous room for growth, exploration, and discovery in this field that can change the way we sustain life, cure disease, and protect our natural resources. Write a statement of what you dream of doing in the future and how you can apply the broad field of biology to your career. Topics include but are not limited to: conservation, medicine, research, public health management, law school, writing, and art.
Work in Cutting Edge Bio-Fuels, Genetics or Pharma
Biotechnology means using microbes or biological products like enzymes in industrial processing, particularly to induce chemical reactions. Prior to the BP oil spill of 2010, the company had experimented with using bacteria to clean up oil, and after the spill bacteria occurring naturally in the Gulf helped break down the hydrocarbons. That process, if replicated in industry, would be a type of biotechnology.
Biotechnology is common in food production, accounting for the chemical reactions used in making beer, cheese, and bread. Some drugs are synthesized as microbial byproducts. Techniques of biotechnology are commonly used in managing crops, helping plants resist drought and pests while maximizing yield.
Biotechnology graduates can find positions in fields like food, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, genetics (understanding the genomes of the microbes involved is critical to controlling how the processes work), and research. There is a great deal of employment available to degree holders.
Scholarships From Colleges
Washington State University
The Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University has posted a lengthy page filled with information on its scholarships and fellowships, including these:
- The Roscoe and Frances Cox Charitable Scholarship, the Charles Dawson Moodie Memorial Scholarship, and the Frank S. Greeley Scholarship are given to students majoring in crop and soil sciences.
- The H. E. Goldsworthy Scholarship goes to a graduate student who breeds wheat or has some other project of significance to the Pacific Northwest’s economy.
- The Tracy Vincent-Sharp Memorial Scholarship is reserved for those studying food production.
Oregon State University
The College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University lists a number of scholarships for its majors, such as the following:
- The Agricultural Honors Scholarship Program was established to produce qualified professionals to manage Oregon’s agriculture businesses and natural resources, giving $80,000 every year to new and continuing students. New students receive between $1,000 and $2,000 (the beginning venture scholarships) and continuing students’ awards (the continuing venture scholarships) are for $1,500.
- The Don Burlingham Scholarship supports junior and senior students in fields like crop and soil science and bioresource research, and it pays full in-state tuition.
- The Wayne and Joann Chambers Scholarship, for majors in botany and plant pathology or crop and soil sciences (among others), is given to financially needy sophomores from high schools in Oregon.
University of Wisconsin-River Falls
The University of Wisconsin-River Falls has designated a scholarship specifically for its biotechnology majors, the Biotechnology Annual Scholarship. This award is for a junior or senior with an overall GPA of 3.2 who is involved in research in one of four areas (Biology, Chemistry, Plant & Earth Science, or Animal & Food Science). Undergraduate research or an internship in biotechnology will also be accepted if completed successfully, and any financial need will receive consideration.
Montgomery College’s Biotechnology Program focuses on worker training and provides the Paul Peck Biomanufacturing Scholarships, which support students who are eligible to work in the U. S. and are pursuing a certificate in Biomanufacturing. It brings up to $500 each semester, and required paperwork includes a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the application form belonging to the Montgomery College Foundation.
Community College of Allegheny County
Community College of Allegheny County also trains biotechnology workers in its Biotechnology Workforce Collaborative Scholarship Program, which uses government grants to provide scholarships covering all educational expenses (tuition, books, fees, and laboratory supplies) for students seeking associate degrees.
Those who complete the program will receive internships as lab technicians, working in local companies like the Allegheny-Singer Research Institute.
Scholarships From Private Organizations
Illinois Soybean Association
The Illinois Soybean Association is currently handing out scholarships of $4,000 each to students at any of four Illinois schools (Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, University of Illinois, and Western Illinois University). Applicants must be juniors majoring in crop sciences like biotechnology, breeding, or plant pathology (a major in crop production is also acceptable) with a focus on soybeans. There are three main criteria: a strong academic history, financial need, and leadership ability.
Iowa Biotechnology Association
The Iowa Biotechnology Association distributes annual scholarships to students with the best entries at the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa. Those enrolling at in-state schools receive $2,000, and those studying in other states get $1,000 each.
New Mexico Biotechnology and Biomedical Association
The New Mexico Biotechnology and Biomedical Association has just (as of February 2013) announced its second annual scholarship intended to encourage a high school senior from New Mexico to major in a subject preparing for a career in biotechnology or the biomedical industry. The award brings $1,000, and with your application you will supply a description of your career plans, your GPA and college entrance test scores, and a referral letter.