Dr. Jorge Allende introduced portable laboratories in the National Congress

Dr. Jorge Allende introduced portable laboratories in the National Congress

The academic of the Faculty of Medicine, who leads the project with which since 2013 have brought experimentation and life sciences to various establishments in the country, visited this March 20 the Education Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, an instance where unveiled the positive international assessment that the initiative had recently had. The instance was attended by The Minister of Education, Gerardo Varela, who extended an invitation to Dr. Allende to meet about the project and its continuity in the coming days.

In mid-December 2017, international expertsAmy D'Amico, an academic at the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), an institution dedicated to the formal reform of scientific education;Luigina Renzi, representative of the Italian National Association of Scientific Education and the Amgen Biotech Experience (ABE) of Harvard in that country; AndBeatrice Salviat, vice-director of La Main's the forum Foundation, an institution dedicated to improving the quality of science and technology teaching in France, visited our country to learn about and evaluate the projectPortable laboratories, led by theDr. Jorge Allende.

After that visit, the experts issued a positive report on the initiative and were emphatically about its future:"The evaluators doubt that further expansion is feasible without an increase in financial support and resources"The report notes, which in turn raises expectations that "this innovative program will grow in Chile in the coming years and can serve as an example of good practice for many other countries in the world".

With this report in hand, realizing the value of a project such as the Portable Laboratories in a country agreed with scientific education and the training of new scientists, Dr. Allende presented at the Committee on Education - in which he participated also the incoming Minister of Education, Gerardo Varela-, the origins of the project, its relevance, expansion and challenges in the future.

"This is the Chilean portable lab, it fits in two suitcases with wheels, can be carried in any luggage rack of a vehicle, it costs 10 thousand dollars. If you divide its value by 800 students who used it is 12 dollars, much less than a text of molecular biology", Dr. Allende said in his exhibition in which, he recounted the beginnings of the initiative dating back to 1998, when the U. of Chile began with training in molecular biology for biology professors.

"Teachers were happy with what they learned but frustrated at not being able to repeat with their students the most entertaining and didactic part of the course, which was the experimental works"The academic told. That's how the idea of having portable labs to visit the lycées came about.

After years of seeking funding, in 2013 the pilot phase of the project began with funding from theWellcome Trust, those who joined the support ofRELAB, UNESCO and the Allende Connelly Foundation. Then, with a single portable laboratory of Molecular Biology and Genomics, they made visits to 26 lycées in the Metropolitan Region.

The success of the initiative brought adherents, and by 2016-2017 theMinistry of education and the Siemmens Foundation of Germany, allowing the expansion of the project thatalready has nine participating campuses-the universities of Chile, La Serena, Antofagasta, Católica de Valparaíso, UMCE, Santiago de Chile, Talca, Concepción and Austral de Chile-, andhas expanded to seven regions of the country.

"In this period we have taught 18 courses and trained 250 teachers. We have visited 50 high schools and 1200 middle school students have experimented in seven regions," said Professor Allende, who is urgently seeing more resources to continue the initiative he will incorporate into The Catholic Universities of Chile and Valparaiso, in addition to the Chilean Antarctic Institute, which will form - in line with the recommendations of international experts - an Association of Education in Life Sciences, which will unite school teachers together with scientists to maintain working together.

With all this information on the table, Minister Varela expressed his interest in the initiative and invited Dr. Allende at the end of the session to discuss the project with the Ministry of Education in the coming days.