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Biodidact: A Scientific Playground With A Mission

on October 14, 2014 - 4:35pm

Biodidact owner Prisca Tiasse. Photo by Mandy Marksteiner

By MANDY MARKSTEINER

Prisca Tiasse won $500 at the Sept. 11 Los Alamos Venture Accelerator’s Elevator Pitch Competition.

After winning the “First-Timer” award, she is continuing to raise funds for her business. Her business, Biodidact, offers fun hands-on workshops that teach biotechnology concepts. The day after Tiasse won the award, she showed how fun it is to get creative with science with her “Extract your Own DNA” workshop during Los Alamos ScienceFest. Judging by the dozens of kids and parents who swarmed her booth, Tiasse had one of the most popular exhibits at the festival.

“I was overwhelmed and very surprised at how many people were interested in my DNA extraction booth. It was non-stop,” Tiasse said.

Everyone who went to her ScienceFest booth got to make a necklace with tiny vials of their own DNA. The activity was so popular that she gave an encore event Oct. 4 at the Diamond Mix Co-Work Space in the Pueblo Complex. The DNA Extraction workshops were free events to help raise money for Tiasse’s Kickstarter campaign, which will raise money for pipettes, laboratory equipment and arts and crafts equipment for students.

A community lab that anyone can use

“I want to give people an open door to science, especially for those who normally would not even try it,” said Tiasse, who is a Post Doc at Los Alamos National Laboratory. She added that she especially wants to spark a deeper interest in science for younger students by giving them a chance to practice applying what they learn in the classroom.

Biodidact will host after school programs and summer camps where students can complete real experiments. She will work with schools to create a list of fun workshops that will enhance the science curriculum. There will also be a space for adults who have a particular project and would like to use our facility, equipment and input, she said. 

“I didn’t grow up with scientist parents. I had to find my own way into it,” she explained. “I didn’t get into it until I saw scientists in the lab.”

Partnering with labs to train workers

In addition to providing enriching workshop experiences, Biodidact will train job seekers, too and help biotechnology labs find qualified workers. Tiasse has trained people with no experience to be an asset in the lab and she believes that, with the right training, many people with a high school or college education can get a job in a biotech lab.

Her company can provide skills training for biotechnology labs. Biotech labs already pay a lot of money to recruit people, and more often than not the new hires still need to be brought up to speed on the specific skills needed. They can save money by outsourcing that training to Biodidact.

Tiasse and her team will find out what jobs will need to be done, and what skills people need to have to fill them. She will guarantee that her trainees will have the requested skills from day one.

“Having those skills will open doors for a lot of people,” Tiasse said.

Obviously, there are limits to what a high school or college graduate can do in a scientific lab, but her company will make use of untapped talent. 

“College is getting more and more expensive. Right now, people who could really shine in scientific fields and have a great passion for it never get the opportunity because they can’t afford to pursue a higher education,” she said. “I can’t train everyone to do everything. But when companies need people who have a specific lab skill, I can get the workforce ready in time.”

Getting people engaged with science

“People see science as an elite discipline,” Tiasse said. “But science touches everyday life. The things scientists do have economical, ethical and environmental ramifications.”

With a readily accessible lab and hands-on experimentation, Tiasse’s hope is to ignite people’s passion for science.

Prisca Tiasse has a Kickstarter campaign to raise $6,000 to buy pipettes, lab coats and safety goggles so that people can start doing science experiments. To contribute to the campaign, click here.   

Biodidact is in The Diamond Mix in the Pueblo Complex, 1900 Diamond Dr. in Los Alamos. Visit http://www.biodidact.net for more information.


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