Jun 29

Why Amgen, a biotech company, backs a new report on high school lab science

More than a decade ago, a groundbreaking report looked at the learning taking place in high school science labs. America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science (2005) — with multiple national science agencies as contributors — examined the effectiveness of such laboratory experiences. The report helped science educators shape their lessons by linking various teaching approaches to learning outcomes. Much has changed in science education since the report’s publication, and a coalition of education groups called for a new edition. The sponsors of this update will be the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Amgen Foundation, based in Thousand Oaks, California. The foundation is the principal channel of corporate philanthropy for Amgen, a biotechnology company. For more about the report update, we contacted Scott Heimlich, foundation vice president:

Q :  Can you tell us about Amgen and the Amgen Foundation s mission?

Scott Heimlich details Amgen’s philanthropic goals and why the company’s backing a new report

A: Amgen is committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients suffering from serious illnesses by discovering, developing, manufacturing and delivering innovative human therapeutics. A biotechnology pioneer since 1980, Amgen has reached millions of patients around the world.

Long-term innovation in the biopharmaceutical industry depends on a highly-educated scientific workforce, as well as a deeper appreciation and understanding of the critical role science plays in addressing the major challenges of our time, including the fight against grievous illness. As our main philanthropic vehicle, the Amgen Foundation seeks to advance excellence in science education to inspire that next generation of innovators as well as invest in strengthening communities where Amgen staff members live and work.

To date, the foundation has donated more than $250 million in grants to local, regional and international nonprofit organizations that impact society in innovative ways. We fulfill our mission of inspiring tomorrow’s scientists and deepening scientific literacy through multiple initiatives, including Amgen Scholars, Amgen Biotech Experience, Khan Academy and the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning.

We were particularly interested in updating America’s Lab Report given our long-term support of the molecular biology labs through the Amgen Biotech Experience ( ), which now reaches 80,000 students per year in high school biology classrooms. Through our recent survey with Change the Equation, we also know how important hands-on, real world experiences are in inspiring and exciting students about science, which are too often lacking for many American students.

Q: Tell us why Amgen is involved in a rewrite of the America’s Lab Report .

A: We believe strongly in the power of hands-on learning and meaningful professional development for teachers and thus have supported programs such as the Amgen Biotech Experience for over two decades to bring real science to the fingertips of students (600,000 students to date through the Amgen Biotech Experience alone).

Given our focus — and given the major reforms in science education since the original publication of America’s Lab Report — we’re proud to partner with Carnegie to support the update of the report through the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council.

Informed by the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards, the new report will provide strong evidence-based guidance for designing new approaches to investigation and design for middle and high school students. This type of report can inform all stakeholders — including science education funders — about different pedagogical approaches to science laboratory experiences and how they link to students’ learning outcomes.

Q: How does this project fit in with the foundation’s mission , and what role will the foundation have in the project?

A: Our mission allows us to foster meaningful opportunities for students and teachers to do real science both within and outside classrooms across the country and, indeed, the world. Projects such as this one allow us to partner with important stakeholders to generate critical new knowledge and evidence, informing future directions and magnifying our impact beyond that which we achieve through any one initiative.

It’s not just about reaching more students with engaging laboratory experiences, but reaching students in a more effective manner guided by the premier experts and the latest research.

Similar to the May meeting where both the program director at Carnegie and myself from the Amgen Foundation had the opportunity to address the expert committee, we plan to participate where and when appropriate in accordance with the National Academies’ extensive procedures.

Q: What changes, if any, does Amgen aim to promote in today’s science curriculum through this project?

A: Ultimately, we hope to empower educators and other stakeholders in this space to have greater impact. Informed by the latest research on science investigations and engineering design problems, these stakeholders should be well-positioned to excite more students about STEM disciplines and careers through the design and implementation of engaging and meaningful investigations and experiences.