AP bio students, NIH specialists discuss public trust in science

Photo courtesy of Rosalinda Bray
AP Biology students pose with their teacher Khanh Chau and the in-person panelists Judith Arroyo, PhD, NIH and Lunet Luna, PhD, NIH and the discussion on public trust in science concludes.

On Monday, March 6, AP Biology teacher Khanh Chau took 45 students to a discussion about public trust in science with scientists and other qualified individuals affiliated with the National Institute of Health. The field trip occurred at the National Institutes of Health Office of Science Policy, about a ten-minute walk from Walter Johnson rather than on the NIH campus.

The event allowed students to observe a real-world scientific roundtable discussion where a number of highly qualified panelists both discussed their views on public trust in science and encouraged questions from their AP Biology audience. Chau was eager and proud to see her students contribute to a professional scientific conversation and hopes for similar field trip activities in the future.

“The questions the student asked were outstanding. Even the presenters complimented our AP Bio students which makes me extremely proud that you guys have a genuine love of science that was so evident,” Chau said.

The field trip was an overall success. Many students, including Wendy Liu, felt more knowledgeable on the topic of public trust in science and were able to better understand the vitality of public trust in the validity of research efforts.

“The panelists really thoroughly explained the relationships between the research of the NIH and how certain aspects influence public trust. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, they discussed how public trust heavily influenced the distribution and acceptance of the vaccine,” Liu said.

Though the event was a positive one, it was only arranged a few days prior, while in more ordinary circumstances field trips are planned with much more time in advance. Chau only became aware of this opportunity on Wednesday, March 1, and quickly navigated the logistics necessary to execute this valuable experience.

“I had the hardest time trying to transport 47 people to the facility… We got lucky that we decided to move the speakers to the nearby NIH satellite building so we just ended up having to walk down the street… Also to take any student field trip, there is a phenomenal amount of paperwork,” Chau said.

Arguably the most significant impact of this field trip was providing AP Biology students with a realistic, tangible vision of what could be their futures. Being able to observe the conversations and considerations associated with science and how to best implement research is inspiring to students and exciting for Chau who hopes to see her students in the STEM workforce someday.

“I loved hearing about the panelists’ experiences because they were very passionate about their job and many of them held unique and interesting roles in the science community which inspired me to continue science in college,” Liu said.