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Dr. Charles (Chuck) Murry started off his presentation with a pop quiz/pep rally for the 30 students gathered around him at Kent’s Mill Creek Middle School.

“True or false: You can only do science if you’re a white guy? “

“False!” the class roared back.

“True or false: You can only do science if you were born in the United States?”


“True or false: You can only do science if English was your first language?”


In a middle school that’s one of the most diverse in the state, if not the U.S., with 35 percent of the students being Hispanic or Latino, and another 33 percent identifying as Asian or African-American, Murry’s message resonated.  For the 450 seventh-grade students who rotated through about 15 demonstrations – from extracting strawberry DNA to watching a pig’s lung inflate – it was a chance to imagine themselves in a white coat, becoming a scientist or doctor someday.  And, this was exactly the point.

“Of course, the best part is the kids,” said Murry, director of the Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine, during a break. “Their brains are like sponges and they are so excited.”

Murry started coming to this school at the request of his daughter, Marit Murry, who worked there as an AmeriCorps volunteer and later as a Communities in Schools site coordinator. He hopes that students seeing the graduate students of different nationalities performing the demonstrations will show them that anyone can go into research if you have the curiosity and drive. This is the fourth year the labs, composed of 24 researchers from UW Medicine, have visited the school.

Dr. Chuck Murray, ISCRM, director, with Mill Creek Students

“I hope to engage these kids and have enough of an influence to maybe change their longer-term trajectories,” Murry said.

The demonstrations definitely seem to have that effect. The demos covered the heart, liver, gut and neuromuscular system.  In one demonstration, Murry held up a healthy lung and then one from a person who had smoked, which was dark gray.

“No one here smokes, right?” Murry asked as he held up a gray lung. The students looked a bit shocked, and of course, no one raised a hand.

Another top winner in the “ooh and aah” category was when researchers Celina Gunnarsson and Caitlin Howard demonstrated to students how to extract DNA from a strawberry. The gooey strands that emerged fascinated the students, who tentatively touched the jelly-like mass.

“That was so cool,” said Aicha Toure, a seventh-grade student who was seeing the demos for the first time.

Jerico Quinto, an eighth-grade student and also president of the science club, said he looks forward to the lab visit every year. And he also has his mind made up as to a career – engineering.

“I like to fix things,” he grinned.

Which, Murry said, is what research, science and medicine are all about.

“I like people to know that science is accessible to anyone in life. If you have curiosity and the desire to make the world a better place, science may be for you,” Murry said. “You don’t have to come from wealth or speak English.”


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