Summer STEM Learning: Praxis Week and Medical Mondays

This summer, JBS students and young alums had the chance to interact with professional scientists, engineers and physicians from all over the country during Virtual Praxis Week and Medical Mondays JBS Career Symposium.

Designed and coordinated by STEM liaison Martha Keeley (Science), Praxis Week happens every June, connecting 20 upper school students with dozens of professionals across a wide variety of STEM fields such as data science, architecture, civil engineering, biotechnology and robotics engineering. This year, due to COVID-19, Praxis Week wasn’t able to happen in the usual hands-on, experiential way, but Keeley says shifting Praxis Week to Zoom “had a silver lining” — she was able to line up speakers from all over the country, including several JBS alums. 

Over the course of five days, students interacted with 32 presenters who lectured on 17 STEM-related fields, including Cary Smith ’19, University of Kansas School of Engineering; Ros Shinkle ’14, Robotics Engineer, Boston Dynamics; Erica Barnell ’09, Chief Science Officer, Geneoscopy; Colman Jin ’12, software engineer at Capital One; JJ Liu ’09, software engineer at AirBnB; Ian Nightingale ’10, software engineer at Google; Emily Koykka  ’15, software engineer at Microsoft; Sahil Lele  ’14, program manager at Microsoft;  Elana Stettin ’15, software engineer at Apple; Andy Zhou ’12, co-founder of Arithos; Emily Butka ’14, PhD candidate in computational and systems biology at Wash U; and Dr. Mike Jin  ’09, postdoctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. "I was surprised by how many different paths the presenters had followed to get to where they were today," one participating student said. "Even some of the younger JBS alums had already gained experience working for several different companies or in different roles, and it made me realize how dynamic the world of STEM-based work really is." 

For 2020, Keeley created an additional summer distance-learning option: the Medical Mondays JBS Career Symposium, designed for high school students and young alumni interested in health care fields. The Zoom meetups, which happened over the course of eight weeks, featured 19 physicians speaking about their specialties and answering students’ questions. Thirty students participated in the first session with Dr. Greg Polites, associate professor of emergency medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and Dr. Lauren Steward ’99, assistant professor of surgery at University of Colorado Hospital Trauma Center, who also touched on her involvement with the nonprofit White Coats for Black Lives.

Between June and August, students had the opportunity to attend a wide variety of presentations:

  • A look at pediatrics with current parents Dr. Nick Holekamp ’78 and Dr. Katie Plax ’85
  • An overview of current genetics research from Dr. Eric Green, Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health
  • A presentation on radiology with Dr. Harry “Tate” Greditzer IV '97, who specializes in musculoskeletal radiology at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, New York
  • A panel on the medical school experience with Dr. Jenny Duncan (a current JBS parent), alums Trisha Bhat ’12 (Wash U School of Medicine), Eunice Ko ’12 (University of Texas Medical Branch), Xavier Bledsoe ’13 (Vanderbilt Medical School PhD program), and Elizabeth Soffer ’12 (Emory University School of Medicine)
  • An overview of the orthopedics field with Dr. Charles Goldfarb and Dr. Scott Luhman of Wash U School of Medicine Department of Orthopaedics (both parents of rising seniors)
  • A presentation by JBS parents Dr. Victor Williams ’89, Dr. Jin-Moo Lee, Dr. Greg Zipfel and Dr. Katie Vo, who presented on neurology and neurosurgery

And finally, on August 3, Dr. Mark Grady ’80 (current parent and professor of pediatric cardiology at Wash U) and past parent Dr. Morty Rinder (cardiologist at St. Luke’s Hospital and medical director for their heart attack program), talked about their careers in cardiology. 

During a summer when so many of the students’ usual activities were curtailed or cancelled, Keeley says it was rewarding to see the enthusiasm they brought to each online session. “I’m very grateful to the over 50 professionals who gave so generously of their expertise, time, and energy this summer to be part of these students’ journeys,” she says.