Pay it Forward at Letters to a Pre-Scientist

picture of Lauren Shields

Volunteer: Lauren Shields

Organization: Letters to a Pre-Scientist - A collaboration between educators and scientists who want to show children a more personal view of science, beyond their typical classroom lessons. Website:

Synapse: Why did you get involved with Letters to a Pre-Scientist and why would you recommend this to others?

I had another PhD student recommend the program to me, and it's a nice way to get kids excited about science. I think a lot of kids who aren't exposed to science early on think that it's just what's in textbooks—memorizing facts and learning about what's already known. I hope that by reaching out we're able to show potential future scientists that it's really about discovering the unknown. And, just as importantly, it helps put a human face to "scientists." We're real people and not mythical white-coated unicorns. 

My pen pals have been so sweet and fun to correspond with. One even sent me drawings. It's a really small time commitment (the time it takes to hand write four letters and write responses), but a nice way to let kids know that scientists are people and give them context to the opportunities that exist in science.

Synapse: What does the role entail?

Basically, you are paired with a young student (mine have both been elementary school kids) and you write back and forth. You’re given some prompts or suggestions for letter topics and things to send. (I sent a postcard of the Golden Gate with one of my letters.)

The kids who are in Letters to a Pre-Scientist are not pre-selected for those already interested in science. Entire classes participate in the program across grades from low-income areas. 

Synapse: How would someone else get involved if interested?

Sign up in the fall at this website: