Community Outreach

Outreach Activities in the Department of Biology

Members of the Department of Biology organize and/or participate in educational scientific outreach programs to promote community awareness of science and scientific research. Through fun and engaging activities, audiences of all ages have the opportunity to learn about how science impacts their daily lives.  Scientists in the department are also committed to supporting K-12 and undergraduate educators through training opportunities to improve science education. Biology department faculty members welcome high school students to their labs through various regional programs that expose teenagers to STEM research. Together these efforts aim to inform the public about the importance of science and inspire a new generation of young scientists.

Many of the efforts of Department of Biology members would not be possible without support from the Institute for School Partnership (ISP), housed in the Department of Biology.  ISP provides campus-wide support for faculty to develop outreach opportunities with St. Louis area K-12 schools. 

K-12 Education

The St. Louis Area Brain Bee Competition

The St. Louis Area Brain Bee (SLABB) is a yearly competition for high school students organized by Biology Professor Erik Herzog with support from the Institute for School Partnership. The competition tests the students knowledge in neuroscience and provides the winner with the opportunity to compete in the US National Brain Bee.

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The Clover Project

The Clover Project brings research into high school classrooms. High school students are provided with the opportunity to complete hands-on laboratory activities using white clover to learn about Mendelian genetics, population genetics, natural selection and the effects of plant herbivory. Data collected by students in the classroom gets incorporated into on-going research led by Biology Professor Ken Olsen.

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Teen Science Café

Teen Science Café is a STEM program for teens offered by the Academy of Science of St. Louis that focus on inspiring and engaging the next generation of scientists and science advocates. Café events are offered in the Fall and Spring of each academic school year and provide teens in the St. Louis region the opportunity to interact with scientists. Biology Professor Ram Dixit hosts a Teen Science Café each year at Washington University in St. Louis to engage students in cell biology.

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Animal Behavior and Evolution Day

Biology Professor Joan Strassmann started this annual event as a way to engage undergraduate students in science education. The undergraduates are challenged with creating engaging hands-on activities for high school students. For many of the high school students, this is their first exposure to college level content.

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Gateway Summer Science Program

The Gateway Summer Science Program gives students from the inner St. Louis area the opportunity to work in a "real STEM lab". The program is a partnership between the Gateway Science Academy of St. Louis, a public charter school, and Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Biology. It was pioneered by Arpita Bose, Josh Blodgett and Hani Zaher of the Department of Biology in 2017 along with Vice-principal Mustafa Icel of the Gateway Science Academy of St. Louis.

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SIFT & TERA summer research programs

The Shaw Institute for Field Training (SIFT) program and the Tyson Environmental Research Apprenticeship (TERA) offer opportunities for high school students to explore ecology and environmental biology research projects at Shaw Nature Reserve and Tyson Research Center, respectively. Jonathan Myers, associate professor of biology, and Rachel Penczykowski, assistant professor of biology, serve as mentors to high school students in the SIFT and TERA programs.

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St. Louis Neuroscience Outreach Opportunities

St. Louis Neuroscience Outreach seeks to connect the general public with scientist who study the brain. This page serves as a directory of neuroscience-related events, programs & opportunities in the greater St. Louis area. Use the link below to find resources and ways to get involved.

Get Involved

Taproot Podcast

Elizabeth Haswell & Ivan Baxter are the hosts of the Plantae podcast series, The Taproot, which aims to convey important lesson to young scientists. Each episode is a conversation with a guest author about a specific paper. But they don't just talk about the science. They also bring to light the stories behind the science: stories of perseverance, serendipity, humor, integrity, and resilience. Haswell is a professor in the biology department and her co-host Baxter is a USDA research scientist and associate member of the Danforth Plant Science Center.



To listen to more episodes, visit the Plantae website. 

More Episodes



Brain Bee gives St. Louis students a chance to explore neuroscience

“Neuroscience isn’t part of the standard high school curriculum, but every year we meet students who are interested in neuroscience because it synthesizes their interest in biology, chemistry, physics and math and is connected to so many topics they care about, from mental health to creativity,” said Brain Bee organizer Erik Herzog, the Viktor Hamburger Distinguished Professor in Arts & Sciences.

Circling back to purpose

Harsh Moolani founded Create Circles as an undergrad. The nonprofit that pairs older adults with college students is now a national organization with some 700 volunteers in 33 states.

Improving Undergraduate Education

Genomics Education Partnership

The goal of the Genomics Education Partnership is to provide opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in genomics research. GEP is a collaboration between undergraduate institutions without PhD programs, and the Biology Department and the McDonnell Genome Institute of Washington University in St. Louis. GEP organizes research projects and provides training / collaboration workshops for community college, college, and university faculty and their teaching assistants.

Genomics Education Alliance

The Genomics Education Alliance (GEA) is a network of scientists/educators who seek to enable, increase, and enrich the sustainable teaching of genomics and genomics-related subjects in undergraduate biology.  GEA seeks solution to lower barriers (e.g. technological, training, pedagogical) that educators face in bringing genomics to undergraduates at scale. GEA aims to introduce large numbers of biology students to bioinformatics and provide students with a course-based research experiences (CUREs). 

"By exposing them to exciting, hands-on experiments, we are awakening their curiosity about the natural world. Once they start asking question, they see the world in a different way. And they want to find the answers."

―Ken OlsenProfessor of Biology