All posts by Jocelyn Curran

BioBus hosts monthly Afterschool Science Hour at the Zuckerman Institute

BioBus hosted an avian biology and virology Afterschool Science Hour event on Friday at the Columbia Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute in Manhattanville.

BioBus, an organization that focuses on bringing science to New York City K-12 students who are often excluded from the scientific community, partners with the Zuckerman Institute to hold monthly Afterschool Science Hours. These events provide activities to local students free of charge, in an effort to make science education more accessible.

Christine Marizzi, director of community science at BioBus, and the organizer of Friday’s event, expressed hope that events like these would bring science to children of diverse backgrounds.

“I hope that it instills the joy of science, but also models science as a place for them, and science is actually for them,” Marizzi said.

Friday’s event focused on avian biology and virology, with research and activities developed by the New York City Virus Hunters. The team is composed of high school interns working to develop educational materials for BioBus’ younger students based on their own independent research projects.

The activities included stations where students could examine bird feathers under a microscope and build virus and bird models. The event also brought live pigeons from the Wild Bird Fund, a local bird veterinarian and rehabilitation center.

Regina Corpus, a teacher at the Manhattanville After-school Center, brought 15 of her students to the event on Friday.

“We always make it our best effort to come,” Corpus said. “This time I brought even more students because they heard from other students how much they wanted to go, so they joined the bandwagon.”

Corpus said her students enjoy the unique learning experience that BioBus events provide.

“Do you ever hear such low roar in a classroom? No,” Corpus said. “They’re working. They’re learning. They’re talking. They’re asking questions. They’re sharing. That’s why we come here.”

Doris Nuñez, a local parent who found the BioBus event through social media, said the event offered exciting opportunities for her child to interact with science at a young age.

“They definitely get excited,” Nuñez said. “Just being able to use the microscope is like a big highlight for them at this age.”

Sumeyye Yar, a local parent who frequently brings her 4-year-old child to BioBus events, echoed Nuñez’s sentiment.

“I think this is such a wonderful place,” Yar said. “We love living near BioBus because we can come to all the events.”

BioBus’ next Afterschool Science Hour event will be held on Tuesday, Mar. 12 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Zuckerman Institute.

City News Staff Writer Jesus Vargas can be contacted at Follow him on X @JesusVargas724.

Mount Sinai receives $1.3 million from the National Institutes of Health to support program that introduces high school students to virus surveillance

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has received more than $1.3 million from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand the New York City Virus Hunters program. The program engages high school students from communities historically underrepresented in science in the first large-scale citizen science effort to catalog and map circulating avian influenza and avian paramyxoviruses in New York City’s wild birds. The goal is to track emerging viruses and to prevent future outbreaks.

Wild birds can disseminate infectious virus particles that spread avian diseases, especially highly pathogenic avian influenza, also known as “bird flu.” While the risk is very low, bird-to-bird and bird-to-human transmission is possible in highly populated areas like New York City, which features 50,000 acres of green spaces and an abundance of wildlife. Surveillance and virus species identification are vital to prepare for and prevent a possible future pandemic, and to identify the types of viruses that may be harmful to humans and other birds.

Established in 2020, the program is a collaboration between BioBus, a science education nonprofit known for its mobile laboratories that bring science to students; Wild Bird Fund, a wildlife rehabilitation center; and Icahn Mount Sinai. Through this program, the students learn lab and research skills, practice science communications, and take steps to become the next generation of problem-solvers.

The newly awarded Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant will support the Virus Hunters program, which empowers students to help prevent the next pandemic by turning them into virus detectives who conduct surveillance work. They begin their research by safely collecting bird fecal samples at urban parks and natural areas. The students then process the samples in the lab of Florian Krammer, PhD, Mount Sinai Professor in Vaccinology and a globally recognized leader in influenza research, including the development of novel vaccines and therapeutics. The lab work involves screening the collected fecal samples and analyzing the genomes of identified viruses. No live viruses will be handled; only their non-infectious genomes will be detected and analyzed. According to Dr. Krammer, birds are key to finding out which influenza and other avian viruses are circulating in the New York City area as well as important for understanding which ones are dangerous to both other birds and humans, and which are not.

“Data generated from the pilot phase of the New York City Virus Hunters program has already resulted in peer-reviewed scientific publication and entries of the first two avian paramyxoviruses ever identified in New York City’s pigeons,” said Dr. Krammer, Principal Investigator of the Virus Hunters program. “This new, five-year SEPA grant will enable us to extend and broaden this citizen science initiative so we can recruit and support many more middle and high school students to participate at large-scale sampling events. This allows us to expand the number of biospecimens we’re able to collect and analyze.”

BioBus has an established network of more than 800 New York City schools and community-based organizations serving primarily diverse student populations that are historically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math. Through this new SEPA grant, Virus Hunters program leaders will refine their existing program infrastructure and expand the partnerships between organizations that currently participate to the New York City school system.

Over the course of the five-year program, Virus Hunters leaders envision recruiting and training 100 teachers and 6,000 students who will participate in sampling events across New York City. In addition, 25 high school students will partake in the initiative as paid Junior Research Scientist interns, supported by a network of BioBus and Mount Sinai mentors to spearhead the initiative. They will screen collected samples; perform nucleic acid extractions, sequencing, and sequence analysis; perform phylogenetic analysis, and get trained in general virology by expert mentors at Icahn Mount Sinai. Organizers hope some will become the next generation of leading virologists.

“Young people are smart and capable of making meaningful contributions to science when given the opportunity to engage in our scientific community, a community which is in dire need of a new generation of diverse and enthusiastic voices,” said Christine Marizzi, PhD, Director of Community Science at BioBus, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Icahn Mount Sinai and Co-Principal Investigator of the Virus Hunters program. “Throughout the program, students build their own identity as scientists, gaining both a sense of belonging in the scientific community and valuable experience as they pursue further science education and careers. We are thrilled and grateful to be able to expand our program through this new SEPA grant so that we can empower even more youth to help us participate in research that will make the Big Apple safer.”

This project is funded by a SEPA grant from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences at the NIH. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

About the Mount Sinai Health System
Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, more than 400 outpatient practices, more than 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time—discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it. Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,400 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. Hospitals within the System are consistently ranked by Newsweek’s® “The World’s Best Smart Hospitals, Best in State Hospitals, World Best Hospitals and Best Specialty Hospitals” and by U.S. News & World Report’s® “Best Hospitals” and “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The Mount Sinai Hospital is on the U.S. News & World Report® “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll for 2023-2024.


VB&G Club Of Queens Hosts Back To School Fest

Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens hosted their annual free Back to School Festival on Saturday, September 9, spon­sored by HydroQuebec, Champlain Hud­son Power Express, TD Bank, Heroes Basketball, and the Rite Bite. Nearly 1,000 backpacks and school supplies were given away to kids present at the event. Mr. and Mrs. Met were in attendance to give the backpacks to the kids.

Backpacks and supplies were gener­ously donated by Queens Borough Presi­dent Donovan Richards Jr., Apartment 3R, Staples store 841, The Amazin’ Mets Foun­dation, New York Cares, Steve Madden, ConnectOne Bank, Target, and the Queens Distance Runners. At the event, Chip City gave out 1,000 cookies, Sky Farm LIC gave away 100 pounds of fresh produce, over 500 books for all ages were given and additional drinks and snacks were pro­vided.

The festival included a bounce house, inflatable slide, dunk tank, games, tie dye station, face painting, balloon animals, and more. Vendors present were BioBus con­ducting science experiments, Astoria Film Festival doing film crafts with kids, Metro­Plus Health, FDNY, and New York Life.

Additionally, on 30th Road, there were learn-to-ride and bicycle safety lessons with Bike Rent NYC.

Variety was also joined by dozens of volunteers from Mega Contracting Group, Disney VoluntEars, New York Life, Steve Madden, the Girl Scouts, Queens Distance Runners, Variety’s Young Professions as well as Variety Alums.

NYCEDC Announces Expansion of BioBus into Additional NYC Public School Districts Throughout the Bronx

The Program Introduces NYC Public School Students in Historically Underserved Areas to STEM Education and Training Which Strengthens the Life Sciences Workforce Pipeline

The Mobile Lab will Receive $700,000 of City Funding Over the Next Three Years

NEW YORK, NY—Today, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President and CEO Andrew Kimball, alongside elected officials announced BioBus, Inc. is expanding its proven hands-on education and training into additional underrepresented communities throughout the Bronx. BioBus, a nonprofit organization, known for its two state-of-the-art Mobile Labs, provides students of all ages with free educational programming and training to prepare for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). 

The state-of-the-art mobile lab will grow and develop new partnerships with schools in NYC Public School Districts 8, 9, and 10, encompassing neighborhoods from Morris Park to Hunts Point. The program will receive $700,000 over three years and deliver STEM education and training to over 12,700 students in the Bronx during that time period.

The expansion is part of Mayor Adams’ $1 billion investment in the life sciences industry and funded in collaboration with Deerfield Management. 

“I could not be more thrilled that our Administration is building on the success of the BioBus program and investing in its expansion over the next three years. New York City is the global center for Life Sciences innovation, business and discovery, and one of the drivers of the industry’s continued success will be the incredible students in our public school system. This project will make careers in STEM more accessible to young people across New York City and especially in the Bronx,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer.  

“Programs like BioBus, which provide students an opportunity to explore the world around them through a lens of science, are essential to inspiring and preparing them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics later in life. We are thrilled to partner with BioBus to serve more children in the Bronx and achieve a mutual goal of providing a diverse range of students with quality, experiential STEM programming,” said NYCEDC President and CEO Andrew Kimball. “EDC is dedicated to growing the life sciences industry equitably, so all New Yorkers can take advantage of the opportunities it provides. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners to build a brighter and more inclusive future.” 

“We know that STEM education, particularly hands-on, immersive programs like BioBus, play a critical role in preparing our students for the opportunities and challenges ahead. We are thrilled to celebrate EDC’s investment in BioBus student programming, which provides invaluable experiences and sparks curiosity in young minds, inspiring the next generation of scientists, researchers, and innovators,” said NYC Public Schools Chancellor David C. Banks. 

“Today’s announcement is not just an investment in BioBus but in our children and families across the borough,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “As a City Council Member, I was a huge supporter of BioBus because if its potential to empower and uplift our students by giving them a hands-on experience to conduct experiments, problem-solve and engage with the STEM field in an accessible and engaging way. By providing this experience to historically underserved students, we are potentially unlocking an interest in STEM for youth who will go on to pursue a career in life sciences. BioBus is leveling the playing field and ensuring our youth have access and opportunities afforded to children and families in more affluent neighborhoods. I want to thank NYCEDC for their investment of $700,000 for BioBus to expand their network and I look forward to working with them, the BioBus staff, and the DOE teams in Districts 8, 9, and 10.”

“Our students are the future of our City and it is essential we provide them with the tools they need to foster their own innovation and discovery. BioBus is accessible, educational, and helps to foster a long-term interest in STEM. As a Bronx Council Member, I have had the pleasure of seeing BioBus in action through my discretionary funding in my local budget and experienced first hand how engaged our students are during the lessons. I could not be more excited that Mayor Adams and NYCEDC are expanding BioBus to serve more of our amazing Bronx students,” said Councilmember and Chair of Committee on Economic Development Amanda Farías.  

“One of the most important things we can do for our students is ensure that we expose them to all possible career paths in preparation for their future. This investment by EDC provides an opportunity for our Bronx students to understand what it means to pursue a career in STEM,” said Deputy Speaker Diana Ayala. 

“Since coming to our City a few years ago, the BioBus program has provided tens of thousands of students with innovative and engaging educational opportunities designed to broaden their knowledge of STEM fields. Today’s expansion of this invaluable program here in the Bronx made possible through funding from the NYC Economic Development Corporation is a testament to the importance of ensuring BioBus continues to educate our students for years to come,” said Assemblymember John Zaccaro, Jr. 

“This collaboration allows BioBus to strengthen our commitment to the students of the Bronx, expanding our pathway from the first science exploration to the future critical thinkers and professional scientists. We are showing students that they can do science. Support from EDC to expand BioBus shows the students of the Bronx that they belong in science,” said BioBus Chief Scientific Officer Latasha Wright, PhD. 

“I grew up in the Bronx with two older siblings and parents who came over from Ghana, West Africa. My parents have always instilled in me the act of perseverance, the importance of education, and giving back to the community. Increasing access to science, especially in underprivileged neighborhoods, will allow kids who have a drive for science to cultivate their passion and strive to make the world a better place,” said BioBus and LifeSci NYC Internship Alumnus Vanessa Akwada. 

“Studying life science gives our students the foundational knowledge and ways to examine the world and life around us. Programs like BioBus will give our students rich experiences to expand their minds and tap into their brilliance,” said NYC Community School District 7 Superintendent Dr. Roberto Padilla. 

“As the organization co-leading and stewarding the development and launch of a Green Economy Network in New York City, JobsFirstNYC sees greater need for hands-on science engagement and earlier exposure to the science-sustainability connection – especially for people and communities underrepresented in good green careers. We are excited to work with BioBus to increase the STEM pipeline in the green economy,” said JobsFirstNYC Vice President Keri Faulhaber. 

BioBus students participate in inquiry-based, hands-on, standards-aligned lab sessions, connect with scientists from diverse backgrounds, learn lab and research skills, practice science communication, and take steps to become the next generation of scientists and problem-solvers, making the world better for all of us.

Students discover the excitement of hands-on science during introductory 45-minute sessions on board a mobile lab at their school. Entire classes of pre-K through twelfth-grade students use research-grade microscopes, guided by BioBus Community Scientists, for a fascinating exploration of the world around them, looking at tiny bugs, worms, compost, microscopic organisms, invertebrates, and/or the various parts of a cell. During the session, students make observations and ask questions, develop hypotheses, and experience the joy of scientific discovery first-hand.

Students also have the option to explore BioBus programs after school, on the weekends, and during the summer where they are provided with the tools, and guidance for in-depth science exploration. 

High school and college students join or return to BioBus as Junior Scientist interns, then spend over 100 hours as paid interns completing their own science research and serving as mentors to younger students.

Skilled and diverse talent is key to supporting the life sciences industry in New York City, but a lack of exposure to STEM education can limit students’ potential for pursuing careers in the life sciences later in life. All BioBus programs focus on students underrepresented in the scientific community due to factors such as race, gender, economic status, and physical access. 

Robust STEM education can close achievement gaps for those in underserved neighborhoods and mold a positive outlook toward science, but schools often lack the resources and facilities to deliver it. Research shows that students receiving such education will therefore be positioned to create a more inclusive and representative scientific workforce.

The programs are offered city-wide with a focus on Harlem, the South Bronx, and the Lower East Side. BioBus reached more than 50,000 students through short, introductory programs during the 2018-2019 school year, with hundreds of students engaging in in-depth programs and research internships. During the 2019-2020 school year, the program reached over 24,000 students both through in-person programs and online during the pandemic.

BioBus is also a long-time host company to the LifeSci NYC Internship Program, having hosted 30 LifeSci NYC interns since 2018. Both the Internship Program and this support for BioBus are part of the City’s $1 billion initiative to create 40,000 jobs, unlock 10 million square feet of wet- and dry-lab real estate, and generate $82 billion in overall economic impact over the next 10-15 years, making New York City a global leader in life sciences.

About NYCEDC        
New York City Economic Development Corporation is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization that works for a vibrant, inclusive, and globally competitive economy for all New Yorkers. We take a comprehensive approach, through four main strategies: strengthen confidence in NYC as a great place to do business; grow innovative sectors with a focus on equity, build neighborhoods as places to live, learn, work, and play; and deliver sustainable infrastructure for communities and the city’s future economy. To learn more about what we do, visit us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram

About BioBus 
BioBus helps K-12 and college students in New York City discover, explore, and pursue science. We focus on students excluded from the scientific community due to factors such as race, gender, economic status, and physical access. Through this work, we envision a world where all people have the opportunity to reach their full scientific potential.

Tessa Hirschfeld-Stoler Receives 2022 SfN Science Educator Award

Author: Nicky Penttila
Published: November 14, 2022

Full report from Neuroscience 2022

Tessa Hirschfeld-Stoler and BioBus High School Junior Scientists observe the morphology of Drosophila melanogaster exposed to high salt and high sugar diets. BioBase Harlem, Columbia University Zuckerman Institute, New York City, 2022. (photo courtesy of Sedami Yevide)

Each year, the Society for Neuroscience recognizes outstanding neuroscientists who have strongly added to public education and awareness about the field. The Dana Foundation sponsors these awards. This year’s award was presented to Tessa Hirschfeld-Stoler, M.Phil., a neuroscientist and science educator with 14 years of experience in science outreach. Hirschfeld-Stoler is a Senior Community Scientist for BioBus, a science outreach nonprofit that helps K-12 and college students in New York City discover, explore, and pursue science. BioBus serves students from groups that are underrepresented in the STEM fields due to their gender, race, or physical access. At BioBus, Hirschfeld-Stoler develops and implements inquiry-based STEM programs based on cutting-edge science and hands-on pedagogy in BioBus’ community lab spaces, providing students with early and rich exposure to meaningful neuroscience experiences. 

To read the full interview with Tessa, visit