On February 14, 2012, graduate student members of Einstein's Percy Julian Association (PJA) visited Public School 214, located in Einstein's Bronx neighborhood, for an educational Black History Month event.
Inspired by the legacy of the renowned African-American chemist Dr. Percy Lavon Julian, who serves as their namesake, PJA organized the trip to talk to young minority students about being a scientist. More than 100 eighth graders attended, listening to Jeremy Fagan describe how Dr. Julian overcame racial discrimination to achieve international prestige as the owner of over 130 chemical patents and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Next, each PJA member described their research and the respective fields they work in, and answered questions from the students, who especially wanted to hear from fellow Bronx native Roberto Lleras. He talked about his academic journey, fielding all kinds of questions, including one about how he incorporates bioinformatics into his research.
The main event was a prepared experiment during which Chisanga Lwatula discussed phases of matter, liquid, solid, and gas, and identified the changes between each phase. The room then erupted in incredulous gasps and excited squeals when Sabriya Stukes demonstrated sublimation, the change of a solid to a gas, by pouring warm water over dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) so that the misty gas that formed spilled over the edge of the bucket.
Vanessa Tricoche, director of P.S. 214's PAZ afterschool program, worked with PJA to organize the event . She said, "This event shows the students that scientists are cool and demystifies the career path. It helps them see that their goals are attainable and that science is a viable career that can lead to an excellent life."
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