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Creating that spark to excite kids about science

Inspiring students through the InnovatioNation Science Education Outreach Program

he word “science” evokes many word associations among adults. Discovery. Research. Medicine. Frontiers.


But among school students, the fear of memorizing principles, the challenge of applied math and the lack of understanding about “What do we need to learn this for?” evokes one all-too-common response: Ugh.


By partnering with schools across the nation, Thermo Fisher Scientific employees are helping to change that. By bringing life into science as part of the InnovatioNation program, employees hope to be the spark that helps students understand that their lessons in the classroom have exciting, rewarding and fulfilling applications in the real world.


Since its inception, the program has partnered with more than 30 schools and approximately 2,500 students across the United States. It has been supported by 200-plus employee volunteers who have dedicated close to 3,000 volunteer hours.

Over the course of three to four months, employees in many U.S. locations partner with schools, in low-income areas, to introduce students to a relevant topic in molecular biology through an interactive presentation. The students are then guided through  hands-on lab activities using Thermo Scientific and Life Technologies products to show them the power of science. And finally, students are invited for a site tour of the nearest Thermo Fisher Scientific site so that they can witness how science and business meet—and introduce themselves to employees who turned a similar spark moment into a career.

Delivering the biggest impact

It’s little mystery that the state of California is in the midst of an epic drought. Farms, livestock and the economy are suffering from a three-year drought that rivals some of the worst in the past century. However, the problem might be worse even than that, according to research done by Park Williams, Ph.D., a bioclimatologist doing post-doctoral research at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Dr. Williams recently told USA Today that the last 15 years have seen a drier pattern in the United States than any 15-year period since the 1160’s—more than 850 years ago.


The InnovatioNation program sought to take this real-world issue to students in Escondido, California, about 20 miles inland from Thermo Fisher’s site in Carlsbad. Fifth graders at the North Broadway Elementary School learned how to manipulate the DNA of some of the state’s crops—corn, rice and tomatoes—to see if they can grow with less water. The program was a success, according to the school’s principal, Jason Hoff.


Instead of using excessive amounts of water on farms in severe drought areas, our students are discovering how to manipulate genes within the DNA of some of these resources in order for the resources to require less water,” said Hoff. “A huge ‘thank you’ to our volunteer scientists from Thermo Fisher Scientific for inspiring us to think and live better.”


Turning students’ “ugh’s” into “aha” moments does more than simply create a fun day in the classroom. With a company-wide commitment to STEM education and a mission to enable its customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer, Thermo Fisher supports applying science to real-world challenges. Students who get excited about science today become the employees and customers of tomorrow—and may help solve huge challenges like growing crops in the midst of a drought breaking centuries-old records.

By bringing life into science as part of the InnovatioNation program, employees hope to be the spark that helps students understand that their lessons in the classroom have exciting, rewarding and fulfilling applications in the real world.