Doctoral candidate April Kusowski loves science so much that for several hours at least twice a month the Wayne State University School of Medicine graduate student invests time away from the lab performing experiments and talking science, technology, engineering and math at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit.
“Volunteering has really challenged me to be able to translate complex ideas into simple terms. The ability to communicate the importance of science and your work to society is an essential skill to have as a researcher,” she said.
Kusowski, a sixth-year graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, was named the Michigan Science Center’s April Volunteer of the Month. She joined the center’s ranks one year ago, and is now an ambassador for the site’s STEMinista Project, designed to promote science, technology, engineering and math to girls in fourth through eighth grades through special programming days, meet-and-greets with women working in STEM and more.
“Exposing young girls to STEM and motivating them to study within these disciplines will provide a foundation upon which they can build. The goal is to sustain girls’ interest in STEM through their high school and college years,” she said.
Kusowski’s research focus is to characterize the structural and functional properties of the yeast mitochondrial ferredoxin, Yah1, in the mitochondrial Fe-S cluster assembly pathway. She is mentored by Associate Professor Timothy Stemmler, Ph.D., and anticipates defending her dissertation by year’s end.
As a graduate science student, she brings a unique element to the volunteer position, she said. “For example, I have been able to mentor young women who are interested in pursuing careers and advanced degrees in STEM,” she said.
She also volunteers to share her passion for science with the community.
“As a volunteer, I usually perform hands-on experiments to demonstrate a variety of scientific concepts to the community,” she said. “I love volunteering at the Michigan Science Center because I am able to see children (and adults) light up with excitement as they experience the exhibits and demonstrations.”
She also has represented the center at local festivals and helped at the center’s popular After Dark event series.
“The Michigan Science Center is a tremendous asset to the city of Detroit and plays an integral role in encouraging younger generations to explore the STEM fields,” she said. “If you are a woman working in a STEM field, I encourage you to become a STEMinista role model,” she said.
WSU is a founding community partner of The STEMinista Project. For more information, visit http://www.mi-sci.org/steminista-project/