It is possible to talk about cancer and still have a good time.
This was the hope for the STEM Teen Read program on Tuesday. By using the John Green novel “The Fault in Our Stars,” the directors of the STEM Outreach Department sought to stimulate talk about cancer and cancer research.
“Science fiction is such a good gateway to learn about science fact, and that’s what we really want to get people to take away from this,” said Gillian King-Cargile, STEM Teen Read coordinator and outreach communications coordinator. “We want to show them a high variety of topics and hear lots of different experts talk about lots of different things. The idea is that something will spark an interest in them and they will want to continue to learn.”
Parents in the community seem to agree that these teen read events are beneficial and they frequently attend with their children, said Laura Mesjak, parent of eighth grade participant Alice Mesjak.
“I think events like this are really important to bring the kids to,” Laura Mesjak said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to come to the university campus. It’s not something that kids in junior high get to do. This is a great experience for them to hear a professor talk.”
Piggybacking off the topic highlighted in the Green novel was chemistry professor Narayan Hosmane. He has been doing research in the use of boron to treat cancers.
“There should be an awareness in the public,” Hosmane said. “It’s not just the same old treatments, the same old therapies being done. There are new things, new research is being done. People should be aware that these things and that they are available. When they see things like that they realize that something is available and they will read. They have an open mind, not all the time thinking it’s the same old therapy.”
Hosmane used the teen read session as a way to get the word out about his research.
“I enjoyed the science and knowledge dealing part of the book talk,” said eighth grader Essie McMahon.
Alice Mesjak was also enthusiastic about local book talks, and has attended several in the past. She heard about the event from the library.
“I’ve been to other events like this through this group,” Mesjak said. “I really like the book, so why not? See what they have to talk. I loved it [the book talk] and now know that cancer is bad.”
The STEM events are open to the public and are expanding the program to include more than just books. Plans for the summer include a visit by author Mike Mullin, author of “Ashfall.” In conjunction with this event the digital convergence lab is making a 3-D video-game based on the book.