Roanoke scientists give local youth behind-the-scenes look at biomedical research

Smyth discusses his career path, research interests, and teaches Roanoke youth about genetics, microbiology, and cardiovascular science on Tuesday.
James Smyth, assistant professor in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, discusses his career path, research interests, and teaches Roanoke youth about genetics, microbiology, and cardiovascular science on Tuesday.

“I learned that the heart is a muscle and there are a lot of cells there.”

That was one camper’s big takeaway after visiting the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC on Tuesday when 29 students enrolled in the fourth annual YouthHQ@Goodwill Science Camp visited the research institute.

Guided by James Smyth, an assistant professor in the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s Center for Heart and Reparative Medicine Research, the students learned about microscopy, genetics, viruses, and how a heartbeat happens. Smyth also discussed the academic path that led him to become interested in how viruses impact heart health, as well as career paths that students interested in science can pursue.

“Our camp allows each student to see science come alive right before their eyes. It ignites a future love of learning, of STEM education, and hopefully inspires a new generation of scientists, engineers, and inventors,” said Nicole Ross, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys’ YouthHQ, STEM and Summer Youth Work Program Manager. “The youth who are enrolled in our science camp often come from a background where they may not be exposed to or have the opportunity to attend a science camp, but they have a genuine love of STEM.”

Goodwill’s free two-week camp also introduced campers to WFXR meteorologists, Dixie Caverns geological experts, and forensics specialists in the City of Roanoke Police Department.

This is the second time that Goodwill has partnered with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute to provide summer campers with lab tours and science education.