Graduate student wins grant to expand STEM education for youth with learning disabilities

Brooke Danielsson. Photo by James Danielsson
Photo by James Danielsson

Biomedical engineering doctoral student Brooke Danielsson has received a grant from the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) to support a community outreach program aimed at middle school students with learning disabilities.

In 2018, Danielsson designed Engineering Practices in Color (EPIC), a program that teaches science and engineering concepts to students living with dyslexia through multisensory activities. She received a public engagement grant from the ASCB organization to expand the program in an effort to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields.

Along with her team, which includes biomedical engineering Ph.D. student Katie Tieu and a group of university student volunteers, she will work with 7th and 8th grade dyslexic students at The New Community School (TNCS) and Riverside School, both in Richmond. The initiative has been supported by the college’s office of community engagement and outreach.

Danielsson, who has been living with dyslexia since she was young, developed the nontraditional, hands-on studying tools herself.

As part of a pilot project at TNCS, an independent school for students with language-based learning differences, she taught workshops for 5th and 6th graders during the 2019-20 academic year. “The experience of watching TNCS students find joy and confidence in STEM from the EPIC workshops brings me a great sense of purpose and responsibility that I don’t take lightly,” she wrote in her grant application.

Danielsson studies under Daniel E. Conway, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University College of Engineering.