Using the Amniotic Sac to Heal Wounds

Check out this cool article one of my students presented for his Friday presentation:

Innovative Wound-Healing Technique Could Save Limbs

amniotic membrane

Basically, they’ve found that the amniotic sac can be used on diabetic sores to heal them instead of them festering and leading to limb loss.

And I was just… so proud when this student was talking–he discussed the female reproductive system without a single blink of an eye in front of all of his peers. Rock on.



I have this one class. I sometimes wonder whether or not they have a pulse. I’ve tried all year long to get them excited, but every time I try, all I get is… cricket cricket.

Today though, we talked about how humans get genetic diversity through meiosis and such, and we were talking about how there’s a tiny tiny chance (about 1 in 200 billion) of making a person exactly identical to you. All of a sudden, I had their attention. Then someone asked: Has it ever been done before? Had two people that were genetically identical but who weren’t identical twins? #extracredit. I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

But until then, I found some super cool resources that I’d love to show them one day when I get to the twin mini-lesson.

I’d love to show them this image: identical twins marrying identical twins and having babies:

twins marrying twins

And have them read this article: A Thing or Two About Twins from National Geographic to give them the twins perspective on being twins.

I would also love to delve into the nature versus nurture issue: do our genes make us who we are or is it the environment?


Fighting an Infection with an Infection: Using Herpes to Treat Cancer

herpes fighting cancer.jpeg

My students recently came across this article in their search for new cancer treatments. I mean, how cool is this?! They’re putting a vector on a herpes virus and then injecting it into the tumor. The virus infects the cancer cells, causing them to burst just from being virally infected, but the vector in the virus also stimulates the immune system to kill the cancer cells, so it’s like a 2-pronged attack. Amazing.

Part of what I also find fascinating about scientific ideas though is the way they’re portrayed and to what audience–my students (in 3 different groups) found 3 different sources for this, all of which have different target audiences.

  1. For everyone: an article in The Guardian
  2. For people seeking science knowledge: an article on Popular Science
  3. For scientists seeking science knowledge: the article from Nature

Teaching Cancer is Exhausting

Today I came home and I was just dead on my feet. And I was thinking about why that was, and I just didn’t get it–my lessons were normal, there were no huge labs, I was in the office, I had some frees… what was different? The content.

Teaching cancer is exhausting. And it’s not that we have super amounts of activities–in my one class, they did a cool introduction to the hallmarks activity, and in the other they researched cancer treatments, but I think what’s exhausting about it is being so emotionally aware all the time–students ask me a lot of personal questions, and it’s so hard to be sensitive to where they’re coming from, and to be truthful, and to not insert my own opinions or stories into the matter.

We were talking about how you get cancer, or rather, how you get the mutations in your cells that can lead to cancer, and someone mentioned radiation, so we were talking about where radiation came from–the sun, X-rays, and some cancer therapies, and then someone said the killer, “But wait a second–if we’re using radiation to cure cancer, wouldn’t that just make more cancer?” And those are the times that I’m left speechless because yes, there is a potential to cause more cancer, but also no–sometimes radiation is the best treatment option. It’s just so hard with a topic that comes so close to home. For everyone.

Then while we were having that radiation conversation, someone mentioned that radiation on your skin could cause melanoma, and then I let it slip that someone close to me had recently died of it. And all of a sudden, I had this rush of emotions, and I was thinking about my friend, and I was on the verge of tears, and there I was in front of the whole class.

“I’m sorry. I love my train of thought.” And then in those couple of milliseconds I felt so… exposed. Because just then they weren’t talking, and they weren’t zoned out, and they weren’t doing whatever else they normally do–they were 100% watching me pull myself together.

It’s very…it feels soul bearing when that happens in front of the kids. Normally I’m Miss S and I laugh and joke about and have everything under control. But when that falls apart and they see something other than their happy teacher, it’s very jarring because it’s no longer part of “the act”–I’m no longer a teacher, but a person. And THAT they pay attention to.


That Class

I have this one class that I literally cannot wait to teach each and every day. The combination of kids is just… magical.

Individually, they are good, but as a whole, they’re awesome. The thing with them is that there is such a good mix: there are the couple of students who think differently–who care about why we’re learning and not just what we’re learning, there are the students who are super focused on the specifics and why things work the way that they do, there are the students who are genuinely interested in biology and what I’m teaching, and then there are just the funny students who ask the bold questions that no one else dares to, and who make it fun.

And together, they drive me each and every day to be a better teacher, because each student pulls at a different part of the lesson: so all in one, I’m teaching, the people who are interested, the big picture, the details, the application to the real world, and the fun of it. It’s such a thrill/

And the thing is that I gave them all a survey on who they would and would not like to work with on a project, and not one of them put anyone in the category of people to not work with.

And the question now is–how can I create more classes like that? Is it sheerly the combination of people or is it the way I structured the class from the beginning?

I guess it’s just about enjoying it while it lasts.