Capecchi encourages students to work in science

By By Veronica Pineda

By Veronica Pineda

Mario Capecchi, the Nobel Prize-winning geneticist whose name graces the street that divides the U’s upper and lower campuses, imparted words of wisdom to high school students Tuesday evening.

The seminar aimed to stimulate the young minds to ask questions concerning genetic research and achievements such as gene targeting, a method of manipulating the DNA sequences to either introduce or eliminate specific genes in mice, which then become known as knockout mice.

“It was very informative,” said Bryson Ensign, a junior at East High School in Salt Lake City. “It made me interested in science and made me more interested in researching knockout mice.”

Capecchi, a professor of human genetics and adjunct professor of biology at the U’s School of Medicine, encouraged the students to pursue their dreams. Even with the economic downturn, he said he sees science as a field that is expanding and is creating variety and new opportunity for scientific research.

“We have to encourage our young people to participate,” Capecchi said. “They are the next generation of scientists.”

Discussing the purpose of a project and how it is being assessed is essential, he said. When scientists don’t spend enough time conversing with the public, that’s when people become afraid, doubtful and unaware of the benefits scientific research has to offer, he said.

“It is important for scientists to communicate with the public and students,” Capecchi said.

Capecchi has lectured for years to audiences ranging from students in elementary schools to the foremost scholars of the world. When it came to speaking with students, he was eager to share his pleasurable experiences in the lab.

“Science is really fun,” Capecchi said. “Every day you have a puzzle, and someone is paying you to solve it.”

Shortly after the reception, his lecture “The Making of a Scientist: An Unlikely Journey” was presented to the public.

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Lennie Mahler

The U?s Nobel Prize-winning geneticist Mario Capecchi spoke to high school students Tuesday at the Salt Lake Public Library.