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   Society for Developmental Biology

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Translating Drosophila Research for K-12 Audience

By Chloe Kenet and Michelle Juarez

Chloe Kenet is a high school senior at the Brearley School in Manhattan, New York. Michelle Juarez is an assistant medical professor at The City College of New York where she studies wound healing in Drosophila.

Chloe at poster

Chloe Kenet presenting at SDB 76th Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN.

This past summer, we presented an Education Poster at the SDB Annual meeting in Minneapolis, MN. Our poster highlighted a recent student-centered creative writing project. We used Frontiers for Young Minds as a platform to “translate” our research into simpler text that children without an extensive scientific education could understand. There are many topics of papers: astronomy, biodiversity, health, math, neuroscience, and earth and its resources. A paper can be submitted as a “New Discovery” of a previously published research article or a “Core Concept” of a science topic. To ensure that the papers are truly kid friendly, the first draft is reviewed by a group of kids of a specified age range (9-12).

I have been volunteering at the City College of New York with Dr. Michelle Juarez’s lab for a year and a half, and one of my first projects was to rewrite a paper for Frontiers for Young Minds. As a high school sophomore, I was somewhat new to reading scientific publications. This project also served as practice for reading papers and a way to further my understanding of what was being studied in the lab.

We started by analyzing the figures. Instead of writing a paragraph explaining the findings, we redrew them in multiple ways until we found the most self-explanatory figure. We also made liberal use of metaphors and analogies.

Explaining a professional research paper in ways middle school students can understand is not an easy task. When we received the feedback from the peer review, a lot of the comments stated that the paper was still too complex.

For the second draft of the paper, we spoke more about the significance of working with fruit flies and the overall meaning of our research, rather than specifics about genetics. We compared gain-of-function and loss-of-function mutations to a river and dam and DNA to a blueprint for a tree house. The kids also suggested that we add a link to a video of our experiment:

It is important to me that children have access to scientific research papers. Younger students should be able to learn not only about the science that they are learning in the classroom, but also about current research. Our paper can be found here:

SDB was an incredible way for me to learn about fascinating research in developmental biology. I had a wonderful time at the meeting this summer, and I thank everyone for being so welcoming of a high school student.