With the National Council of Educational Statistics recommendations in mind, “Science and Research Awareness Series” (SARAS) was created in 2004 at Stony Brook University within the Department of Anesthesiology. In its first year, SARAS attracted 24 students and was taught entirely by one faculty member. Students listened to Dr. Pentyala’s morning lectures on novel and cutting-edge technologies in biomedical research like nanotechnology, bioinformatics, pharmacogenetics, cloning, stem cell research, etc. In the afternoon, the students visited labs within the School of Medicine to view first-hand (and sometimes, hands-on), techniques used in basic biomedical sciences.
Interest in the program grew quickly. Annual enrollment has reached 135. We found many faculty members eager to interact with the students so that most of the lectures and workshops are now presented by expert research scientists and clinicians.
SARAS students practice medical procedures on patient-simulating mannekins at the
Clinical Skills Center.
In July 2013, SARAS celebrated its 10th Anniversary. The program took place over 15 days spanning 3 weeks and involved 70 faculty and staff members. Some lab visits are no longer feasible due to the sizes of the groups, but these have been supplemented by interactive demonstrations in various teaching labs. Important additional topics have been identified, such as workshops in statistics, CPR, ethics and lab safety and are now addressed. SARAS participants are also given assignments such as becoming an “expert” in a rare disease (each student is assigned a different topic) and making a presentation to the other participants in a moderated but informal setting. They were also given written assignments asking them to reflect on topics and workshops that they attended in SARAS. Our approach to teaching is novel.
SARAS students interact with patients at the Long Island State Veterans Home.
Introductory lectures/discussion sessions cover basic concepts designed to provoke and excite the students. While the advanced nature of the topics often exceeds the capacities and backgrounds of some students, these difficulties are not necessarily a setback but rather, are desirable. Challenging students to struggle with concepts may actually promote learning.