Bay Area Teachers Learn a Fun Way of Teaching DNA at the BABEC Training Workshop

Teaching lessons on DNA, genetics, race and ancestry could be a make it or break it moment in front of high school students. There is that lost look in the students’ eyes that inevitably leads to boredom when teachers dive deeper into cytology and molecular biology. Or there is the sensitivity of bringing up race in the classroom that might divert the science lesson into conversations often reserved for history or social studies classes.  However, with the rising popularity of exploring your ancestry through companies specializing in consumer genomics like Ancestry and 23andMe, integrating the ancestry theme into a DNA and genetics lesson might compel the disenchanted.

On Saturday, December 7, twenty-five science teachers from across the Bay Area, attended the BABEC Training Workshop on mtDNA PCR:  What Does Genetics Tell Us About Race and Ancestry?  at City College of San Francisco – Mission Campus. This workshop provided teachers the opportunity to experience BABEC’s hands-on lab lesson by actually doing it, while learning how they can teach this lesson in their respective classrooms. The workshop also featured a special guest. Dr. Joshua Schraiber, Research Scientist of Population Genetics at Ancestry, gave a riveting presentation on ancestry, ethnicity, genetic communities and migration.

Even though the workshop was 6 hours, time seemed to fly due to the variety and quality of activities that kept everyone engaged.  Teachers enjoyed a game of card matching, swishing for cheek cells and were excited to learn about haplogroups. It was easy to forget that the other invaluable take-aways from this workshop were the new and refined lab skills that the teachers had developed, a NGSS-aligned lesson plan that permits all students to do science and resources to turn classrooms into science labs.

Undoubtedly, the teachers’ enthusiasm for this BABEC lesson will be contagious for their students. Nevertheless, when teachers make learning science fun, they are helping to create a generation of problem solvers.

Thank you, Teachers, for attending this workshop and for all that you do for the next generation.

Below are photos from the workshop, and see BABEC’s Instagram for more!

Jennielyn Dino-RossiBay Area Teachers Learn a Fun Way of Teaching DNA at the BABEC Training Workshop

BABEC Fall 2019 Conference Convenes Over 100 Bioscience Educators and Stakeholders

On Saturday, September 28th, 104 high school and community college bioscience educators and stakeholders from across the Bay Area and other parts of California attended the BABEC Fall Conference at Skyline College in San Bruno, sponsored by the California Community Colleges. Conference attendees came from San Mateo, Alameda, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Marin and Solano counties. Several attendees traveled from outside the Bay Area, including guests from San Diego, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Situated in the new Environmental Sciences building atop a bluff with a majestic view of the Pacific Ocean, one would think it would have been difficult to compete for the attendees’ attention.  However, the conference delivered a full day of learning resources and solid take-aways while the view served as an anchor for like-minded STEM professionals to enjoy the moment, meet new colleagues and share new ideas and best practices with each other.

The BABEC team featured their updated bioscience curriculum and introduced their new initiatives for the 2019-20 school year, which includes a collaboration with Genentech, and an expansion project funded by the National Science Foundation. The Regional K12 Strong Workforce Program (K12 SWP) team provided an introduction to the initiative and K12 SWP grantees shared how they plan to use the funding to develop talent for a stronger workforce in the Bay Area.

Bioscience educators were also given a special presentation on how to easily align biotech lessons with NGSS by Kirk Brown, Director of STEM Programs at San Joaquin County Office of Education. Kirk also serves as the regional science-lead of the Curriculum and Instruction Subcommittee of the California County Superintendent’s Education Services Association.

In the BABEC tradition of creating a community for Bay Area bioscience educators (the “C” in BABEC), attendees were able to break out into regional groups to design collaborative pathways to biotech careers. With a strong mix of professionals representing colleges, high schools, administration, industry and nonprofits, the regional breakout groups formed cross-functional teams that focused on taking a diversified approach to building successful bioscience programs in California.

Evidently, the view of the Pacific Ocean was just a mere backdrop to what the attendees saw from one another’s perspectives.  The conference brought awareness to the Bay Area’s burgeoning economy of biotech jobs while positioning educators as vital for building a competitive and strong workforce in the region. 

As a strong community, attendees agreed that exposure to life science or STEM careers should start at an early age.  Subsequently, educators need access to updated innovative curriculum and support in introducing students to biotech careers.  Hence, BABEC looks forward to convening the bioscience community again to continue strategizing on how to support science teachers and inspire students for science careers.


Jennielyn Dino-RossiBABEC Fall 2019 Conference Convenes Over 100 Bioscience Educators and Stakeholders

BABEC Named the Nonprofit Beneficiary of the 2019 Genentech Gives Back Benefit Concert

BABEC is on the JumboTron at Oracle Park.

Genentech hosted their 10th annual Genentech Gives Back Benefit Concert on Saturday, June 22 at Oracle Park and BABEC was the event’s nonprofit beneficiary. Genentech employees and partner organizations celebrated their volunteerism with the music of Trombone Shorty, Charli XCX and the legendary, multi-time Grammy award winner, Stevie Wonder.  In addition to the incredible line-up of musical artists, a special profile on BABEC was presented on the Jumbotron that featured the organization’s legacy and commitment to strengthening science education in the Bay Area.

The Genentech Gives Back Benefit Concert has traditionally featured crowd-pleasing celebrity performers and BABEC was honored and humbled to be chosen as the event’s nonprofit beneficiary. As the nonprofit beneficiary, all proceeds from T-shirt and hat sales at the event will benefit BABEC. Thank you, Genentech!

Jennielyn Dino-RossiBABEC Named the Nonprofit Beneficiary of the 2019 Genentech Gives Back Benefit Concert

Genentech Employees Aliquoted Chelex into 6000+ Tubes for High School Students

Genentech Gives Back Week 2019

All hands on deck!  For the 10th year, Genentech Gives Back Week took place during the third week of June. During the week, Genentech employees volunteered for causes they care about. On June 21, BABEC set up a pop-up lab on Genentech’s campus to host a group activity for volunteers to get their help assembling biotech kits for Bay Area high schools. In three-hour increments, groups of volunteers aliquoted Chelex into over 6000 tubes and tested over 300 micropipettes to make sure they were within range for accuracy. At least 70 Genentech employees fulfilled such essential tasks.

With full tubes and calibrated micropipettes, BABEC can now provide biotech kits to hundreds of classrooms. High school teachers will use these kits to teach students the fundamentals of biotechnology in a hands-on way.  The Chelex-filled tubes will be used for DNA isolation lab lessons, which could be that spark for inspiring a new generation of scientists.  Thank you, Genentech!



Jennielyn Dino-RossiGenentech Employees Aliquoted Chelex into 6000+ Tubes for High School Students

NexGeneGirls Hosts 3rd Annual Boot Camp for the Summer 2019 Cohort

Carin Zimmerman, Ph.D. of CCSF Biotechnology Program and NexGeneGirls at BootCamp.

NexGeneGirls hosted their 3rd annual Boot Camp for the Summer 2019 cohort of NexGeneGirls on Saturday, April 27th at City College of San Francisco – Mission Center.  Eleven Bay Area female high school students ranging from grades 10 to 12 reported to Boot Camp to learn lab techniques in biotechnology from CCSF instructor Dr. Carin Zimmerman and interns from the CCSF CIRM Stem Cell Technology program. At Boot Camp, they were instructed using protocols and reagents that were generously provided by BABEC.

Marlena Jackson, Executive Director of NexGeneGirls, and the 2019 summer cohort at Boot Camp.

NexGeneGirls provides opportunities for young girls of color from low income communities to develop skills and gain confidence in science. Students develop science and leadership skills while assisting with administering hands-on science workshops to middle school girls and working on independent science projects.

Understanding that the gender and diversity gap are significant challenges in the STEM field, NexGeneGirls provides an eight-week summer program for girls to “live and breathe” science research for 20-25 hours per week in a university environment at UCSF and San Francisco State University. NexGeneGirls has provided opportunities ranging from STEM events and internships for over 1000 young women since it was founded in 2011.

Through partnerships with organizations like UCSF, SF State, City College and BABEC, NexGeneGirls is able to leverage the assets of the broader community to help close the gender and diversity gap in the STEM field.

Jennielyn Dino-RossiNexGeneGirls Hosts 3rd Annual Boot Camp for the Summer 2019 Cohort

BABEC Brings Work-Based Learning to Over 1500 Students During SFUSD Biotech Week

Machaon Diagnostics Clinical Research Scientist, Violet Votin, speaks to students at Galileo High School

“Tell me something that you enjoy,” Violet Votin, Clinical Research Scientist at Machaon Diagnostics asked the 1st period biology class at Galileo High School on Friday, March 22. “I like the satisfaction of solving problems,” replied the 9th grader. Votin suggested that a career in bioscience might be an interesting career for the avid problem solver.  This conversation is just one of hundreds of interactions between bioscience professionals and students during Biotech Week, a collaboration between the Bay Area Bioscience Education Community (BABEC), the California Life Science Institute (CLSI), and City College of San Francisco’s (CCSF’S) Biotechnology Program.

For the third year in a row, BABEC coordinated the Biotech Week, a week of robust work-based learning science modules, in which teachers and students learned principles of biotechnology and performed foundational laboratory techniques.  Approximately 1500 biology and chemistry students and 15 science teachers from five SFUSD high schools participated. Following the hands-on lab activities, students learned from CCSF faculty members how they could continue to explore their academic and career interests in biotechnology at City College through dual enrollment courses, the Bridge to Biotech Program and the Bioscience Internship Program.

CLSI provided an inspirational career element to the modules by bringing in industry experts to discuss their career pathways and current positions. Thirty-six professionals from the following companies and organizations participated: Amgen, Amunix, Bayer Healthcare, BioAmp Diagnostics, BioTek Instruments, DCVC Bio, FitBiomics, The Gladstone Institutes, Genentech, Gilead Sciences, JBEI, JS Hongo Consulting, Machaon Diagnostics, Siolta Therapeutics, Stanford University, Twist Bioscience, UCSF, Veracyte and VeriSIM Life.

Evelyn Hernandez, a research scientist and Ph.D. candidate at UCSF, speaks to a couple of SFUSD science classes

Meeting professionals who looked like them was extremely relevant in helping to spark an interest in science among the diverse student population. CLSI brought in diverse speakers from a wide range of careers and career levels, including Evelyn Hernandez, a first-generation Latina research scientist and Ph.D. candidate at UCSF, who spoke to several of the science classes.  Aware of the underrepresented populations in STEM careers, Evelyn has devoted her volunteer time with science education outreach programs over the years. Reflecting on what inspired her to consider a career in life sciences, Hernandez stated: “It was important for me to see someone who looked like me. Otherwise, I couldn’t see myself as a scientist.”

“Wow! I learned a lot from her,” exclaimed a 12th grader from Lincoln High School. ”I learned that no matter if we are Latinos or if we are from other races, we can do many amazing things to be successful in our lives. I’m surprised because I know that to take a PhD, we have to take a a Master’s Degree first, but she is doing her PhD now, and that makes me feel that I can do it, too.”

Sparking interest in science is the first step in building a diverse workforce in biotech. The success of Biotech Week clearly demonstrates that more students will become interested in STEM careers if given the opportunity. Surveyed after the Biotech Week, 64% of the students felt they had a better understanding of science after listening to their respective speakers.  Seventy-three percent of students said they had a better understanding of the careers in science after listening to the speaker, and 41% indicated that they could actually be a scientist.

“Thank you so much for this week!” stated a 12th grader from Galileo High School. “I learned a lot of interesting things. Personally, I was not really interested in science, but this week made me feel like I should give it a try.” For more information about BABEC Biotech Week, contact Kristen Wolslegel at For more information about partnering with CLSI on industry engagement, contact Lori Lindburg at

Jennielyn Dino-RossiBABEC Brings Work-Based Learning to Over 1500 Students During SFUSD Biotech Week

Workshop Recap: Alu PCR for a New Generation

It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, it’s Barbara’s Jumping Genes!
Bringing Scientific Spotlights and NGSS to an old favorite: Alu PCR

On Saturday December 8, 2018 twenty-four teachers from across the bay gathered to see our new NGSS updates to this classic classroom PCR lab activity.  We explored Barbara McClintock’s Nobel Prize winning work on Jumping Genes as an anchoring phenomenon for learning about common non-coding regions in everyone’s DNA called Alu Transposable Elements.  See the new curricula here.

The workshop was conducted by Debbie Clark, who teaches biology and biotechnology at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo. She introduced our new Lesson Plan which walks through all the detailed steps needed to teach this activity in an easy and straightforward way, so that it is accessible to all kinds of teachers and learners!

Feedback from teachers after the workshop:

“The workshop on Saturday was easily one of the best I have ever attended.”
“You always give great presentations!”
“I will recommend similar BABEC events to my colleagues with great enthusiasm!”
“Excellent workshop. I attended the last one too, and look forward to the next one”
“This curriculum will be perfect following heredity and going into evolution”
“Depth, pacing, and pedagogical techniques all seemed on point”
“Good modeling teaching technique”

Kristen WolslegelWorkshop Recap: Alu PCR for a New Generation

Workshop Recap: Promoting the Next Generation of Genetic Engineers

Bacterial Transformation & Protein Purification for All Levels of Students!

On Saturday November 3, 2018 twenty-eight teachers from across the bay gathered to get a sneak-peak of our new NGSS update to this introductory biotech activity for all levels of students. Attendees were excited about the variety of offerings for this lab. BABEC now offers two approaches to bacterial transformation: an introductory version where GFP gene is always “on”, and an advanced version that required induction with arabinose.  We are also offering several new colors to liven up the party!  See the new curricula here

The workshop was taught by Elizabeth Doggett, who teaches biology and biotechnology at San Mateo High School.  She walked attendees through the process of building a model and explain the phenomenon for how recombinant DNA technology works in a simple and approachable way.

Feedback from teachers after the workshop:

“Really appreciate the language scaffolds”
“Like the use of NGSS SEPs and anchoring phenomena and teacher guidelines for timing”
“Great job making curricula that is accessible for ALL students!  Can’t wait to do the scientific modeling!”
“Very student-friendly updates to the curriculum and student handouts”
“I really appreciated the model as an assessment of understanding”
“Not only was the new lesson more manageable for me as a teacher, but it is also more accessible to a lot of students at different academic ability”
“I really like the improvements on the labs – much better for EL students”

Kristen WolslegelWorkshop Recap: Promoting the Next Generation of Genetic Engineers

Fall 2018 Kickoff

Saturdays are precious for so many of us! Following a full work week, we need downtime to recharge and prepare for the work ahead; we like to spend time doing fun activities with family & friends.

So it’s telling that even though the BABEC Fall Kickoff was on a Saturday, we had a packed house for the event consisting of high-school teachers, community college instructors, administrators and science educator supporters from across the Bay Area. From networking with colleagues, to learning about Scientist Spotlights, to seeing the recent updates to the BABEC curriculum and getting strategies for how to incorporate it into their classrooms, and meeting the BABEC 2.0 team – the event was one that many were glad they didn’t miss!

See the full event recap here, with full videos of speakers! 


You can find a recap of the Fall 2018 Kickoff.

Kristen WolslegelFall 2018 Kickoff

Spotlight on BABEC Teacher in Residence – Alton Lee

For the average person, a “teacher” is someone who is restricted to a classroom, delivering knowledge in a structured format that is assessed through exams or activities. What is rarely seen is the work that happens outside the classroom, preparing lesson plans as well as adapting ideas and curriculum to meet learning goals. BABEC relies on a close partnership with teachers to advance our mission of inspiring all students to engage in science. It is because of this that this past summer, our first teacher-in-residence joined the BABEC team.

What exactly is a teacher-in-residence? Meet Alton Lee and learn more about how he is blazing the trail for this new position.
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am starting my 12th year in the classroom in the Fall, and I currently work at Woodside High School near Redwood City – where I teach Biology and Chemistry.  I previously worked at Mission High School in San Francisco, where I taught Chemistry, Principles of Biotechnology, and Physics; and Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, where I taught Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science.

My family and I immigrated to San Francisco when I was eight, and I have lived here ever since.  My bachelor’s and master’s degrees are both from UC Berkeley.  My bachelor’s degree was in Psychology & Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) – although my slant towards MCB was more molecular. My master’s degree was in Education, and my initial teaching credential was only in chemistry – since, at the time, I did not think I would ever teach biology.

My first experience with BABEC was in 2006 as a student teacher in a chemistry classroom.  One of my teaching supervisors, who also worked for BABEC at the time, was doing a workshop on a new lab involving rainbow protein purification.  We started out with bacteria transformed with plasmids containing genes for different fluorescent proteins, and we would lyse the bacteria and isolate the proteins using an affinity chromatography column.  Perfect – my cup of tea.  I did the lab in the class I student-taught but thought that I would never do this lab (or another BABEC lab) with students again.

That changed after about 6 months into my first job.  I was hired to teach chemistry and be part of the Health Academy.  There was no health-related content course connected to the academy.  A biotechnology course became a possibility – partly because there had been one at the school several years prior, and partly because there were schools teaching biotech courses elsewhere in the district.  That (re-)started a biotech course that continued for 7 years – outliving the Health Academy that was its impetus.

Teaching biotech changed me as an educator and a learner.  It forced me to learn biology that I ignored as an undergraduate; I was learning it so that I can help my students build connections they never thought existed.  It has helped me (re-)imagine what a 9th grade biology class can look like.  It helped me situate chemistry, physics, and environmental science within a high school science program.  In my spare time, I volunteer, cook, and travel.  As of the end of August, I have visited 32 states and 9 countries.

2) What is your role as a teacher in residence with BABEC? How do you interact with the rest of the team?
The team consults with me when they need a teacher’s perspective on an issue.  As we were streamlining the portable supply kits for San Mateo County BABEC teachers, I would either suggest changes to the portables or be asked my opinions about different changes.   It was all hands on deck when the entire BABEC team cleaned, serviced, rearranged, and restocked different components in the portables to get them ready for this year! The team also consulted me as they were making changes to different lab protocols, while I was working on rewriting BABEC curriculum and thinking long-term about what other curriculum materials will be of interest to teachers and students.

3) Why would working with an organization like BABEC be of interest to a high school science teacher?
I think that a teacher working for BABEC is, essentially, a mutualistic relationship.  As a consumer of BABEC’s reagents and curriculum materials, I have had my own opinions, optimizations, and customizations. BABEC, as curriculum gets worked on, needs feedback from different stakeholders – including teachers.  Ideally, teachers and BABEC staff foster a productive working relationship where teachers give feedback that results in iterative refinements to curriculum – which teachers turn around and use for their students.  Ultimately, students benefit – and not just my students, if I do my job right.

4) What has been the most interesting experience you have had at BABEC so far?
Being consulted on multiple issues all at the same time as definitely kept my interest!  Being asked questions about portables, curriculum, and lab protocols all within one hour definitely mirrors my work in my classroom!

5) Any sage advice for future teachers in residence?
It’s about balancing needs of different stakeholders – and thinking big picture.  It’s about thinking beyond just my classroom, my students, my colleagues, my school.  It’s about envisioning the needs to students and teacher across multiple spectra, while balancing the realities of a nonprofit trying to make as broad of an impact on student learning as resources can allow.

Kristen WolslegelSpotlight on BABEC Teacher in Residence – Alton Lee