HeLa Cell Program: Learning About Cancer

By Tom Gralinski, STEM Coordinator
Smith College Jandon Center for Community Engagement.
Date: April 2016

Program Description:  A great group of students from The Literacy Project in Amherst returned to Smith College Microscopy and Imaging to follow up on their earlier investigation of plant and animal cells. On this visit the focus was an introduction to cancer: what it is, what it looks like under a microscope, how the HeLa cells were grown, some of the causes and treatments. The instructional team led by Allison Sirois 0GR connected this session to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. The team of Sirois, Amalia Driller-Colangelo ‘18, Liz Tan ’16, and Ria Despande ’16 had students looking at cancer at different stages as well as HeLa cells that are part of the research Sirois is involved in. Judith Wopereis, Technical Director of the Center for Microscopy and Imaging at Smith College coordinates Smith’s outreach events in microscopy.

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#1 – A student takes a look at HeLa cells on an inverted light microscope.

#2 – Judith assists one of the visiting students as she looks at cancer cells.

#3 – Allison Sirois talks about a number of common cancers.

#4 – Eileen Barry, The Literacy Project teacher from Amherst, explains another aspect of our cancer and microscopy investigation.

#5 – Allison Sirois demonstrates how the HeLa cells were stored before she started growing them for the session and her own research.