Seventh graders at Roosevelt Intermediate School recently were visited by a molecular biologist who provided real life connections to a science unit on metabolic reactions in the human body in which the students explore a case study of a middle school girl and the specific symptoms she reports to her doctor.

“Some viruses live better in cold temperatures,” said Dr. Mary Carayannopoulos, clinical assistant professor and laboratory director in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Rutgers University’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.  “That’s why when your nose and fingers are cold, a virus might linger longer.”

Carayannopoulos, who also is the parent of an RIS 7th grader and 12th grade twins at Westfield High School, provided an overview of the immune system, how physicians diagnose patients, non-invasive and invasive surgical procedures, and other topics tying into the unit.

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“It was a pleasure to have Dr. Carayannopoulos speak to our students.  Learning about science from an accomplished female scientist is very powerful for our students,” said Roosevelt science teachers Andrew Bausch and Melissa Czerwinski, who arranged the classroom visit on Sept. 27.  “Dr. Carayannopoulos’s presentation was relevant and engaging.  Additionally, it helped our students connect our unit to the use of evidence in the medical field.”

In the unit on metabolic reactions, 7th graders investigated data specific to the fictional M’Kenna’s case, studying doctor’s notes, endoscopy images and reports, growth charts and micrographs. They conducted laboratory experiments on chemical changes involved in the body’s processing of food to discover how M’Kenna’s symptoms were connected.

“We are very fortunate to have experts in our community that can work with our students and demonstrate how what they are learning in science ties into everyday applications,” K-12 Supervisor of Science Thomas Paterson added.  “Our units are designed around real-life phenomena, and here Dr. Carayannoppoulo was able to reinforce this and emphasize how the learning can be the foundation for a career.”