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Health & Wellness
Sparking Student Interest in Science

By Lisa Wu, Senior Associate Engineer, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development

As part of a group of nine ambassadors from Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical R&D, (J&J PRD) I had a fabulous time greeting thousands of visitors to our company’s exhibit booth on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. this past weekend in support of our sponsorship of the USA Science & Engineering Festival (USAEF).

From one end of the Mall to the other and in locations around the city, the Festival achieved its goal of sparking enthusiasm for science and engineering in students of all ages. Thousands of children and families attended the Festival, partaking in hands-on learning activities that featured a lot of what’s cool about science and engineering, from rockets and robots to unraveling the mysteries in DNA.

Visitors to our booth experienced YourHealth 3.0, our interactive, futuristic virtual R&D Center. Children and their parents learned about the miracle of the human body and biology at one of the eight terminals situated around a large model globe. I was amazed at their tech savvy, and how easily they navigated the virtual world. Through video, audio and graphic images, they heard from many of our scientists about our work in personalized medicine and collaborative innovation to solve serious diseases. Many educators, impressed with the program, asked when this will be available online. (Look for it early next year.)

My colleagues and I were thrilled to answer the many questions from visitors about why we chose careers in science and our educational backgrounds, and to share our passion to discover and develop medicines that will improve people’s lives. Visitors were truly interested in what we do every day, and hearing more about our company. Many of them had no idea that these efforts are a significant part of J&J. We received questions ranging from, “What do you do?” to “Do you really wear a lab coat at work?” You can hear more from me and a fellow ambassador about the festival in the video below.

For Beatriz Dulanto, Associate Scientist II, one young child with a particular interest in medicine brought back memories of herself at a similar age. “My grandmother was an Ob/Gyn in Peru who did so much to improve the lives of poor women through her clinics. I saw how science and medicine could improve lives, and knew then that was the area of work I wanted to pursue.”

Most of our student visitors ‘Scientificated’ themselves in our photo kiosks. They shared huge smiles as we took their photo, which was then customized and superimposed onto a scientist’s body in their choice of lab backgrounds. They got to walk away with an image of themselves as scientists – both in-hand and in their minds that tells them that they too can be scientists.

I hear in news reports that U.S. schoolchildren are behind their counterparts from other countries in math and science. The parents and teachers I met this weekend are doing their part to change that and to ensure that their kids see the possibility in science that I do, and that they too can positively impact the world through the world of science.