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Inspiring the Next Generation
While the primary focus of a publication such as Pharmaceutical Technology is aimed at discussing current technologies for the pharmaceutical industry, some consideration should be given to inspiring the next generation of scientists by stimulating interest in the application of pharmaceutical science. This is clearly the case in the United States, where secondary education institutions want to enhance an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Pharmaceutical technologies are a STEM activity and, as such, deserve a voice in this arena. The volunteer outreach activities of a pharmaceutical scientist to high school students, whether through industrial or academic affiliation, cannot be underestimated. When an exceptional student is invited to work in an academic or industrial laboratory through a shadow or summer project, the experience can be career defining.
Other STEM activities are moving into the high school laboratory and, with creative and careful planning, can include pharmaceutical technologies. Through one such initiative, Bio-Link, biotechnology companies donate laboratory supplies for high school use, providing support for critically underfunded secondary education programs.
Pharmaceutical scientists can provide support to high schools through teacher training or directly to students as time and circumstances allow. Because a typical high school laboratory may have a limited instrumentation and consumables budget, pharmaceutical technology exercises should be offered in a self-contained or modular concept, from which a volunteer scientist and teacher can choose, based upon the laboratory/learning environment and available resources.
These teaching modules need not be expensive or sophisticated. The goal should be learning experiences that are hands-on, conceptual, and of course, fascinating.
Here are some simple teaching modules I have used:
These procedures require relatively few inexpensive chemicals and avoid the use of corrosive, flammable, volatile, and toxic agents and mammalian species (in observation of school district hazard restrictions). The most valuable resources are the time and expertise of the pharmaceutical scientist, including discussions following the laboratory. This is especially critical during the student’s junior or senior years, when career and college planning are coming into focus. Pharmaceutical technology is important enough to deserve this route of educational promotion.
For more information about the teaching modules, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Timothy J. Smith, RPh, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, University of the Pacific, Stockton, Calif.