Each year, on every fourth Thursday of April, a nationwide effort is made to offer girls the possibility to get to know professional areas and jobs, which they might not typically consider after their school career. The aim and concept of the Girls' Day is to oppose to stereotypes, such as girls not fitting to technical professions in engineering and science. As the German Research Center for Environmental Health, the Helmholtz Center in Munich supports the endeavor to motivate young girls to look beyond traditional female professions, not least, because the center itself takes much responsibility in scientific education of young researchers.
On April 27, 2017, the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) as part of the Helmholtz Institute for Lung Biology and Disease invited six girls from different schools in and around Munich to learn about the lung and about a scientist's life in the field of medical science. After an introduction to the institute, the laboratories, and current lung research challenges, the students were encouraged to take up pipettes and plunge right into real scientific experiments. As if they were born scientists, the girls isolated primary mouse lung cells for cell culture, stained cells for fluorescence microscopy, and isolated DNA from vegetables and fruit. But execution of all these experiments makes hungry! During the pizza lunch with all scientists involved, the girls took the chance to ask their questions on, among others, career decisions and received tips and tricks for their own educational and professional path. As a grand finale, and since this naturally follows a good lunch, the scientists made fresh ice-cream from blended strawberries and chocolate with the help of liquid nitrogen - what a pleasure! The ice-cream even attracted others passing by the corridors!
All scientists that performed the experiments that day enjoyed the time together and were happy to have been able to contribute and motivate the girls for new routes in their educational and professional career. For us, it was really great to have had the girls around and to have passed on some of our knowledge, particularly the fun part of our job. The feedback from the girls was very positive; we hope that they will keep the Girls' Day 2017 in good memory - so will we!
- Maximilian Strunz