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News Release                                    Contact: Stephanie Lee

For Immediate Release                                                                         919-467-5567

November 28, 2005                                                                               


Chatham County Students First to Experience SPARK! Program

Northwood High Students Spend a Day With GlaxoSmithKline Scientists


“Although U.S. 4th graders score well against international competition, they fall near the bottom or dead last by the twelfth grade in mathematics and science, respectively.”


“By 2010, if current trends continue, more than 90 percent of all scientists and engineers in the world will be living in Asia.”

Statistics provided by “Tapping America’s Potential: The Education for Innovation Initiative”


(RTP, NC)—Advanced placement biology students from Northwood High School in Pittsboro were the first to experience a new program offered by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).  The program is called SPARK!— Scientists Participating in Active Research with Kids. 


“The goal of the SPARK! program is to ignite a growing interest in science and educate students about careers in the field of science,” explained Chris Boytos, Director of U.S. Science Education for GSK.  “As part of this program, students travel to GSK, meet with GSK scientists, perform experiments and apply their classroom experiences to real world situations.”


Before participating in the on-site program, students and teachers are required to complete pre-work in their classroom setting.  Teachers are advised on how to best reach their students and students learn about particular biological techniques.  Upon completion of their pre-work, the students travel to GSK for a day of discovery, and once they return to school they continue discussion of the day’s events with post-work.


“The SPARK! program provides a wonderful opportunity for my students to venture out of the classroom and experience science in ‘the real world,’” says Keri Randolph, AP Biology teacher at Northwood High School.  “So many times, students see science simply as a course in high school, and I constantly try to show them that what they are learning in class applies to the real world, including career choices and issues that will affect their lives.  The SPARK! program does all of these things.”


Students from Northwood High School agree with Ms. Randolph.  She was recently nominated as a North Carolina teacher of the year, and it is because of her enthusiasm and love of science that her students participate in the SPARK! program.  Ms. Randolph, her student teacher and GSK scientists eagerly assisted students as GSK-sponsored UNC educator Betty Brown taught students how to introduce a fluorescent protein to bacteria using plasmid DNA.  Upon completion of the experiment, students saw the fruit of their labor when they used black lights to detect the glowing bacteria in a Petri dish. 

Following the laboratory activities, the students were treated to a virtual tour of the medicines development process at GSK. Scientists and students completed the day with a lively discussion about career opportunities in scientific research.


The GSK SPARK! program will host Durham’s Riverside High School students December 9 and Wake County’s Green Hope High School students December 16. 


For more information about SPARK! or GlaxoSmithKline, please contact Stephanie Lee at 919-467-5567 or


About GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  More information is available at


About SPARK!

Scientists Participating in Active Research with Kids (SPARK!) is a unique program implemented by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) that strives to enrich science education within the public school system.  The goal is to illuminate careers in the science industry and excite high school-aged students about science-based career opportunities.  Through the SPARK! program, students complete course work, travel to a laboratory outside of the classroom and interact with GSK employees who have chosen science as a career.