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Breast cancer research grant funds hands-on experience for Springfield students

April 30, 2019

This fall, Springfield middle and high school students will get the chance to do hands-on research in collaboration with Baystate Health. Students will participate in a city-wide research project studying how environmental exposures affect growth and development of breast cancer. Researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the changes that occur with exposure to chemicals during critical periods of development.

With a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Baystate investigator Sallie Schneider, PhD and her team will be able to bring the hands-on research experience to students in Springfield’s middle and high schools.

One part of the grant focuses on community involvement, aiming to promote education among local students. To that end, Schneider is collaborating with Ron St. Armand, Director of Science in the Springfield Public School System (SPSS) and Peter Blain, Baystate Springfield Educational Partnership (BSEP), to plan the city-wide research project that will study how coming into contact with certain chemicals can affect changes in the breast and other organs. SPSS also received a Massachusetts Life Science grant to purchase equipment and supplies, and to create a professional development course for Springfield teachers.


This summer, Dr. Schneider will begin preparing Springfield high school science teachers for the upcoming school year. Teachers will learn how to incorporate research and critical thinking into their current biology curriculum.

In the fall, she’ll provide reagents (substances used to cause a chemical reaction) so that each student can analyze a small part of the study. Dr. Schneider hopes the students will feel excited and empowered by contributing to a research study. But more importantly, she hopes they will gain a new understanding of how chemicals in the environment can impact their health.

“This is a fantastic collaboration between Baystate and the Springfield schools,” says Dr. Schneider. “We are investing time to involve students in research in hopes that the real life experience will help them to get excited about science and increase awareness.” It is Dr. Schneider’s hope that Advanced Placement (AP) students will eventually visit the Baystate Health research labs to do simple stains of cells and learn more about hands-on biomedical research.

“We are excited to see what will come out of this grant,” she concludes. “It’s a collaboration that our research department hasn’t gotten to do before.”

Learn more about education and research at Baystate Health.