I’ve been blessed to have many things that I am passionate about: conducting research, mentoring, creating comics, and teaching. But if you told me that I would spend every Saturday for 13 weeks devoting 12-15 hours with teenagers just for the chance to combine them all, I wouldn’t believe you. But alas, here we are.
This past spring semester I helped out with the Teen Research Internship Program (TRIP) Initiative, a program designed to teach high school students the basics of laboratory research. Specifically, using fruit flies as a model organism, students learn how to ask questions, design experiments, give presentations, and explore their curiosity. But what’s the most unique about TRIP is that every student creates her/his own independent project, where s/he address a question that’s specific to their own interests and doesn’t have a set outcome.
On top of all of this, I was given the opportunity to start a mini-course within the program where I guided students to create their own comics and graphical abstracts based on their unique independent projects. This was such an amazing opportunity but to be honest I was terrified. I developed and taught my own course for undergraduates before, but that was critical thinking skills – something I’ve been doing everyday as a scientist for the past decade. But here? I had no idea what to expect.
Would they balk at the idea of drawing? Will they be emo and brooding? How do I even talk to a teenager? Better yet, how do I teach someone else to create comics when I have no formal training in art, storytelling, or sequential art that combines the two?
But my students were open-minded, accepting, and exceeded every expectation; some continuing to make drafts between assignments to ensure the message was as clear as it could be. Looking back now and reflecting, it was hard, it was tiring, but in the end incredibly worthwhile.
I’m glad that I feel that way because yesterday was the first day of the Summer TRIP session and I’m doing it all over again and then some. But I can’t wait to see what they create.