Sam Rhine has crossed the country for 30+ years presenting the latest genetic information for high school students and their teachers. He has also spoken to audiences in Toronto, Montreal, Tokyo, Vienna, Prague, St. Petersburg, Russia, and Nairobi, Kenya.
These one-day, 4-hour conferences change slightly from day to day as Sam adds “breaking news” but they change completely from year to year focusing on new hot topics. Sam is a gifted teacher who is excited about medical genetics. He shares his knowledge and his excitement and focuses on the myriad of career opportunities for bright motivated students.
The student participants at these conferences generally come from Biology and A.P. Biology classes, but many students who have completed their Life Science classes also attend. Students who are college bound, who are in pre-professional tracts or who are Science Olympiads will find the conference to be especially significant. Many teachers bring Honors and Gifted and Talented junior high school students. Every presentation begins with a review of the ‘basics’ so younger students need not worry about being lost all day.
School administrators recognize the day as an educational field trip or a career opportunity day. Students have a unique chance to hear one of the top educators in the country present the most recent genetic information. These conferences attract the most motivated students, and many of those students attend the conference in successive years because the topics change from year to year.
One Student’s Story
Eleven years ago, I attended the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars program as a rising high school senior. I was a smart and motivated student with an interest in science, and I thought I was bound for a pre-med program. You gave a 4hr seminar one afternoon to a small group of Scholars, and I was in attendance. You spoke about the promise of stem cell research, the associated ethical dilemmas, and the new world of “regenerative” medicine that awaited. I was mesmerized for the entire 4hrs, quite the long time for a high school student, and I left that lecture knowing that I would pursue a career in stem cell research. That statement may seem like a fantastical exaggeration of long-past emotional memories, but it is not. That night, I sent emails to my parents and other family telling them about your presentation and about my new “calling.” My mom still remembers getting that email and being surprised and skeptical that I would go into research. She could tell that I was excited though, and she knew that if I put my mind to it, I’d do it. I went to undergrad and pursued a biology major, not pre-med, and I got involved in research any way that I could. I did undergraduate research, I took a research-oriented lab course, and I did summer internships. I went to graduate school, and I joined a lab that studied transcriptional control of hematopoetic development. I published a paper in Molecular Cell and a review article in Development, and I graduated in 5 years. Now, as a post-doctoral fellow, I finally have the opportunity to study stem cells. I study the role of DNA repair and replication in somatic cell reprogramming and methods for epidermal differentiation from ES cells. I plan to continue the study of reprogramming and stem cell differentiation throughout my future career in academia, hopefully with my own lab someday. When I got my PhD, I wrote a note of thanks to you in my Dissertation acknowledgments, though I could not remember your name at the time. Today, your name dawned on me, and I looked you up online. Your career of speaking to promote public awareness and inspiring young scientists is really awesome. I benefited tremendously from hearing your passionate presentation, and I am forever thankful for the inspiration. Perhaps I would have come upon this interest in stem cell research some other way during my education, but I do not think any other experience that I have had could have come close to the inspiration that you provided me. So, thank you very, very much for inspiring me and other young scientists. You changed me life, and who knows, maybe I’ll discover something that will change the world.
Timothy M. Chlon, PhD
Laboratory of Susanne Wells
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital
Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute