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One such hook is to show scientists at work in visually arresting locales. Instead of filming them at a desk or behind a podium, his documentary has HHMI investigator David Kingsley of Stanford University, for example, discussing fish evolution “on location” at a British Columbia lake.
Carroll and the other three investigators and their collaborators have a knack for drawing people in. They think science is fun, and they want students and the public to see that side of research—the fooling around, the friendly competition, and the personal success (and disappointment) stories.
But while they're hoping to show the playful side of science, all four investigators agree that managing their new grants isn't all fun and games. Balancing lab work with the nitty-gritty administrative work required for the projects is challenging. “I don't think I would have been able to do research and do this too,” says Babendure, who gave up his postdoctoral appointment to become the full-time director of BioBridge.
As the program has grown, running it is has become too much for Babendure to do alone. So he recruited a staff of interested community-college students to make the protein kits for high schoolers' experiments. “Our goal is to make this effort sustainable in the long run without continually needing to write grant applications,” says Tsien.
Vale and Baker say the greatest challenge for them is convincing teachers to make time in their courses for new classroom activities. “Because there are so many mandated things, curriculums are full,” says Baker. All in all, though, the projects appear to be successful. Tsien's and Babendure's BioBridge is expanding to classrooms outside California, and Vale has scientists approaching him with offers to give new seminars.
“In general, the scientific community is supportive when it comes to education,” says Vale. “It's very easy to get scientists who are willing to donate their time. There's definitely good will in the community.”