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South City High unveils $7.8 million ‘Science Garage’

Donning a blue shirt that reads “the future of science is here,” Genentech CEO Bill Anderson placed his hand to his chest and said:

“The future of science is not here. …  The future of science is here.”

He then pointed to the crowd of students in front of him, all wearing the same blue shirt, and to the newly constructed, state-of-the-art science building directly across from him at South San Francisco High School.

During a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new building Tuesday in front of students, local officials, and Genentech employees, Anderson gushed about the $7.8 million, 6,900-square-foot building dubbed the Science Garage.

The new lab boasts cutting-edge equipment that could be found in any professional lab, and, beginning this school year, it will house a tailor-made curriculum for amateur teen scientists.

Shawnterra Moore, South San Francisco Unified School District superintendent, told SFBay:

“This has been a long time coming. …  We talk a lot about shifting the way we are instructing, and this opens up a realm of possibilities that I wish I had when I was in high school.”

Inside the new building, visitors toured the lab where all high schoolers from the district will have the opportunity to take part in hands-on courses in biotechnology.  With the help of Genentech employees, students show off what they have been learning by asking guests if they want to see what happening under the microscope.

Nicholas Arcega, 17, a senior at South San Francisco High School, said to SFBay:

“We have a lot of hands-on experience that most kids don’t get. …  As soon as I heard that we were gonna be able to use all this equipment, I immediately said yes I want to join the class.”

Cherie Cohen, Biotechnology teacher at South San francisco High School, said the school has already seen higher enrollment in science electives this year compared to last, and students have been asking her how to pursue a science degree in college:

“In a normal science class kids don’t usually get the opportunity to have labs everyday. …  Having all this space to work with is great and I think by taking this class the kids are maturing a lot.”

Science Garage is the latest in a group of Genentech programs that are designed to get South San Francisco kids excited about biotechnology. Other programs under the umbrella of Genentech’s $18 million Futurelab program include the Helix Cup Challenge; an annual science competition for eighth grade students, and Gene Academy; a weekly one-on-one mentoring program for elementary school kids.

In the lab, Arcega says with a smile that his love of science has been cemented after taking biotechnology classes, but having the ability to use the new equipment in the lab has helped him decide what he would like to do with his future:

“I plan on going to either UC Davis or Seattle University after high school to study forensic science.”

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