My Thoughts on Sam Rhine’s Genetics Conference

Casey Stavenhagen, Staff Writer

When many people think of boring circumstances, things that come to mind are Sunday evenings stuck in the house, slow days at work, or sitting in a lecture hall for three hours to hear a 500 plus page slideshow; however, to AP Biology students last Monday, that lecture hall is right were most of them wanted to be. Although this conference wasn’t optional to be attended by students of Randall High’s AP Biology teacher, Mrs. Usnick, it was stressed that this conference was a privilege to attend.

Ex-Indiana University professor Sam Rhine hosts genetics conferences around the nation to groups of high school students, and this conference includes information on the most recent scientific advancements on topics such as cancer and stem cells. Students often miss out on interesting information due to it not being included in their curriculum, so Sam Rhine packs information into three hours. The cost of attendance is $20 per student, although most schools pay for their student’s attendance.

While most lectures can seem exhausting after even just an hour of listening, Rhine does an excellent job of keeping the audience engaged by mixing together fascinating information and humor. Throughout the entire three hours, there was only one time where I lost concentration, but that was caused by being dehydrated which was quickly fixed, as Rhine allows breaks throughout the lecture.

The conference was held in the auditorium, and although snacks and drinks were not allowed here, the 10-minute break leaves enough time for students to get a quick snack and drink. The conference occurred from around 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. so as long as the attendees had breakfast, being tired or being hungry weren’t issues.

In most classes, I will write about 2 pages full of notes during the hour I am present, but during this conference I was writing 2 pages of notes every 20 minutes, ending up with around 18 pages full of notes. It did not seem like I was struggling to cram notes into a short period of time, as the pace Rhine took was a natural, quick pace, and following allowing with his slides and verbal teaching was easy, as it should be when someone tours the country to give guest lectures for a living.

Speaking to many of my classmates after the conference, I learned that I was not the only one that was basically in awe of the amount I was learning. Rhine teaches information that professionals in the field of biology know by heart, yet to AP Biology students, it was mostly all unfamiliar to us, which can make someone feel small. The goal of this isn’t to push one away from the field; however, it serves a purpose of intriguing and inspiring students, allowing them to realize how easily this information can become tangible to them, and if they want to set out to be on a research team tasked with curing cancer, then they very well can.

Sitting in an auditorium for three hours absorbing constant information may be a little overwhelming, but it came to me to be a refreshing reminder of what education can do for someone. I have always considered biological research as the career path I want to follow, and I found myself leaving this conference inspired that I can achieve great things in my career, as people do every single day.