The Berkeley Lab Director’s Apprenticeship Program (BLDAP) provides an opportunity for underrepresented public high school students (including African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Latinx, LGBTQ+, students from low income households, and first-generation college attendees) to apply themselves in STEM projects and develop strong connections to the broader scientific community and Berkeley Lab researchers.
The Northen Lab, a research group that contributes to m-CAFEs, has led BLDAP projects for two years using EcoFABs. For the 2021 BLDAP, participants were given EcoFABs and Brachypodium distachyon seeds to study the effect of nitrogen on plant growth. Students were provided an EcoFAB kit to assemble the chambers at home and then instructed on how to germinate seeds, transplant the germinants to the EcoFAB chambers, replace media, and harvest the plants. Each student grew two plants in different media: one with nitrogen and one without. This EcoFAB initiative was originally started in 2020 by former m-CAFEs researcher Lauren Jabusch (now in the Berkeley Lab BioSciences Area Office) who developed it with Pete Andeer, leading the students in an exploration of the effects of salinity on plant growth.
Additional skills and experience students gained included making hypotheses, designing experiments, and interpreting data. They were also prompted to record observations of their plants throughout the program, such as specific measurements and any changes that occurred while the Brachypodium were growing.
Student feedback from the program was positive, including one participant who said “this was my favorite project to work on.” The Northen Lab is excited to continue participating in BLDAP this year and help more students gain exposure to science and scientific methods.
Image: Ying Wang, a researcher with the Northen Lab, demonstrates using the EcoFABs at home.