Upcoming STEM Day Opens Learning Opportunities At Children’s Hospital

There’s not many opportunities that blend marine conservation and medical sciences. So Jacob Hromyak considers himself lucky to volunteer at PedsAcademy at Nemours Children’s Hospital.

PedsAcademy is a pediatric school program that provides hospitalized children research-backed educational opportunities.  It was founded earlier this year under the leadership of Megan Nickels, Ph.D., an assistant professor of STEM education. On a recent Friday afternoon, it was a team of marine biology students at PedsAcademy under the direction of Linda Walters, Ph.D., sharing their knowledge.

At one table, Biology majors Carly Grimson, Reyanna St. Juste and Miranda Magnan took turns teaching a young girl about ocean acidification and the impact of rising sea levels. Across the room, Hromyak helped a boy classify threatened and endangered wading birds and the characteristics that make them suited for shoreline living. Their habitat is currently under restoration by Walters and her colleagues.

The hands-on teaching suits Hromyak’s passion for conservation, and confirms his choice to go into the medicine.

“It’s really meaningful seeing how this impacts the lives of patients and families,” Hromyak said. “It takes them away for just a few minutes from whatever brought them to the hospital for treatment.”

Grimson, who plans on going into dentistry after graduation, echoes the importance of giving back. Being part of a service-learning marine biology class project at the hospital made her compassionate and sympathetic toward the hardships other people endure.

“It really opened my mind,” Grimson said.

The opportunity to volunteer and give back will be majorly scaled up on May 16, when the first-ever UCF STEM Day is hosted at the hospital in Lake Nona. Walters is currently on the search for faculty and associated laboratories willing to host an interactive project for patients, visitors and family members in the hospital’s lobby.

“We have such a deep pool of talent in STEM at UCF, so I’m excited to see who steps up,” Walters said. “This is a can’t-miss opportunity.”


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