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Volunteers from Cubist Pharmaceuticals deliver a Lesson About Germs

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BOSTON, MA - November 6, 2013 - Shouts of Eeeewww! and Gross! could be heard as 5th grade BELL scholars at Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School school were treated to a lesson in germs. Volunteers Carmela Mascio and Tim Keutzer from Cubist Pharmaceuticals taught scholars about bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses- organisms commonly known as germs. Scholars learned how germs grow, what they look like under a microscope, and what illnesses they cause. Carmela and Tim shared ways that scholars can reduce the spread of germs, such as refraining from sharing food and drinks with others, using a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and washing hands before and after preparing food, eating, caring for someone who is sick, touching an animal, handling garbage, or treating a wound.

Scholars participated in a hand washing experiment simulating the transfer of germs. First, scholars applied "Glo Germ" a lotion containing small particles the size of bacteria which glow under ultra-violet light. Next, they were instructed to wash their hands as they normally would. After washing, scholars inspected their hands under an ultra-violet light. To their dismay, their cuticles, the creases of their wrists, and the area between their fingers glowed with the residue of the "bacteria" that had not been cleansed from their skin during hand washing.

Tim and Carmela explained to scholars that these areas of the hands and wrists are often overlooked when washing, and therefore tend to be a resting place for bacteria. They explained how bacteria remaining on those areas of the hands could be transferred from scholar to scholar by shaking hands, sharing pencils, and generally coming into contact with one another. Scholars then learned proper hand washing techniques to ensure that every inch of their hands, fingers, and nail beds are clear of bacteria.

Angelica, a BELL scholar, said of the event, "It was fun, now I know that if I don't wash my hands, I can get sick - now I know what to do to not get sick!"

BELL brings professional scientists into the classroom in an effort to expose scholars to new subjects and get them thinking about future career possibilities. As our volunteer Carmela, a microbiologist, puts it, "It's really important to get kids excited about science - there's a misconception that only boring people do science, and hopefully I can bring some energy and introduce the idea that people who do science aren't boring, and that science is fun. We also want to get scholars thinking about things outside of what they might normally be involved in, to give them a different perspective that there's a whole new world out there that might be new to them and could be really interesting - science is everywhere!"

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