Last Friday I volunteered with the Society of Women Engineers and helped out with an experiment during our annual CHOICES event. CHOICES is a program where Lehigh brings middle school girls up to Iaccoca hall to get them excited about science and engineering. Dean Wu of the Engineering school talked in the morning about the different disciplines here at Lehigh and then, after splitting into groups, we got to work one on one with some of the girls and perform basic experiments.
I helped volunteer with the Chromatography lab. It was advertised in the brochure as a Chemical Engineering experiment, but it is definitely applicable in the BioE world as well. After a brief introduction about what mixtures, solutes, and solvents were, we gave the girls basic instructions on how chromatography worked. We used coffee filters and water to demonstrate how the colored dyes used in markers and in the food coloring of candy was actually composed of different colors. Markers or rubbed-off dye were put in the middle of the coffee filter and was then placed in a glass of water so only the tip was submerged. As water traveled up the filter, it pulled with it some of the dyes and separated it into components. The girls had a really fun time trying out different markers, or writing their names and watching the water distort it.
I know when I was their age, my school didn’t really go the extra mile to try and get women excited for engineering. In fact, not a whole lot of emphasis was put on science or math in general. We were a pretty sport-driven suburban town. This is why I was super excited to volunteer with SWE so I could have the opportunity to talk to these girls and try and get them thinking about possibly pursuing careers in fields that are still considered to be male-dominated.
If you are interested in learning more about CHOICES, it turns out Lehigh has a whole official page on it so you should definitely check it out!