High school students from across Qatar had the chance to investigate the biology and spread of the coronavirus, thanks to a collaboration between the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) and Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q).

The All About Science: The Biology of Pandemics programme offered high school students with an interest in science and medicine the chance to learn more about the current pandemic and place it in the context of historical pandemics.

Using mathematical tools, the students learned how scientists study the epidemiology of the virus and how measures like social distancing, vaccinations, and travel restrictions impact upon the virus’ spread.

The one-week online programme was offered by the Office of Student Outreach and Educational Development at WCM-Q and was led by Dr Becky Cramer, Dr Dalia Zakaria and Dr Kuei-Chiu Chen. They worked alongside Raga Mohamed, acting head of public programmes at NMoQ. Seven students of WCM-Q also acted as programme tutors.

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According to Dr Cramer, the students were highly engaged and asked insightful questions as they learned about COVID-19, the tools scientists use to track infections and the historical context of the pandemic. The students put their new-found knowledge to work, as they formed teams to develop and test a scientific hypothesis about the pandemic, with support from their programme tutors. The resulting presentations were of the highest calibre: well-delivered, well-reasoned and placed meaningfully within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The programme was held remotely over video-conferencing apps and was designed to encourage high school students to pursue a career in science and medicine, and to give them a much greater understanding of COVID-19. In addition, they were also taught teamwork, quantitative reasoning and experiential design, skills that will benefit them in the future.

A total of 31 high school students from Qatar and the region actively participated in the programme. All were excited to share their valuable insight on the programme through a survey capturing their feedback. The programme was highly rated and described as an ‘amazing experience’.

NMoQ Associate Director of Learning and Outreach Fatma Al Kuwari, said they are proud of the WCM-Q collaboration, which provided learning opportunities to students during such challenging times.

As an educational institution, we are committed to offering learning services for our audience and I am very excited for what is to come.

WCM-Q Assistant Dean for Student Recruitment, Outreach, and Foundation Programs Dr Rachid Bendriss, said not only were they able to teach young students the biology and epidemiology of the novel coronavirus, they were also able to explore the series of deadly diseases that Qatar has faced in the past, and discussed what the future may hold.

We value our partnership with NMoQ and look forward to collaborating with them again and inspiring the younger generation to pursue a career in science and medicine.

For more information about the different programmes offered at WCM-Q, visit their website at qatar-weill.cornell.edu