The Museu da Vida-Fiocruz (Museum of Life) shook up the Fiocruz campus in Rio de Janeiro with the World Biotech Tour (WBT) Festival, June 22–24. With biotechnology as the theme, activities included experiments, challenges, musical presentations, dance, graffiti, chats with leading scientists, and the WBT teen ambassadors presenting Lab-in-a-Box activities and their biotech topics.
The museum is the only stop in South America on the tour, a three-year ASTC initiative sponsored by Biogen Foundation. Members of the public and school groups visiting the museum during the festival were able to learn about different biotech topics significant to the global and local community, including cell biology, genetics, microbiology, transgenics, stem cells, drug production, virology, bioethics, and more.
A highlight of the festival was the chance to meet and interact with the WBT ambassadors, high school students selected to participate in the WBT’s ambassador program. The Museu da Vida ambassadors are 15 young people living on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, a few of whom live in the favelas surrounding Fiocruz, such as Maré and Manguinhos.
During the past year, they have been developing projects related to biotechnology and participating in museum events aimed at the general population. “We have followed the development and involvement of the ambassadors with science, and it is amazing how young people take ownership and empower themselves through knowledge,” says Diego Vaz Bevilaqua, head of the Museum of Life.
Paired with scientist mentors, the ambassadors have been engaged in a unique experience working in biotech labs or on science communication assignments exploring topics that are relevant to them. Examples of topics the ambassadors worked on include analyzing DNA to understand people’s susceptibility to leprosy (a disease still plaguing Brazil), the mutation of Zika virus in bodily fluids, and several projects exploring different forms of science communication, such as a student-led blog called TAGARELA. The ambassadors present their topics to the public and to students from around the world, taking advantage of the opportunity to exchange their experiences in this international program. On the other side, mentors are thrilled to work with the next generation of scientists and are inspired by the passion the students have for exploring science.
To further connect the public and youth to STEM careers, Biogen Brazil representatives and employees volunteered at the WBT festival to show their support for STEM and its impact on the communities they serve. “The WBT is a great opportunity to understand how biotechnology impacts our lives and how it fits into contemporary science. It is a project that creates a global network to encourage the next generation of scientists, and this is very important,” explains Sameer Savkur, General Director of Biogen Brazil.
For festival photos and to learn where in the world the WBT Festival is traveling to next, visit ASTC’s project website, www.WorldBiotechTour.org, and follow the fun on the WBT’s social media (Facebook and Twitter, using #WBT2017).