PacSci Perspectives

Meet Rebecca Gottschalk Of Aptevo Therapeutics (formerly Emergent BioSolutions)


Ever wonder how scientists design medicines? Find out – and use your own hands and brains to do experiments – including building antibodies with ping pong balls and plastic connectors – at Life Sciences Research Weekend at Pacific Science Center. You’ll experience hands-on science and face-to-face time with the nation’s top research scientists from companies and research institutions across Washington state.

“I’m basically a teacher at heart,” says Rebecca Gottschalk, a scientist from Aptevo Therapeutics (formerly Emergent BioSolutions) who volunteered at the event in 2014 for the first time and is back for another round. A research scientist for over 25 years, Rebecca is also a parent who brought her daughter to Science Center events countless times over the years. “Pacific Science Center does great stuff, reaching out and translating science to the general community,” she says. “I was excited when an opportunity came along to be part of it.”

Rebecca put out a call to her colleagues, and was overwhelmed by their enthusiastic response. Twenty-three people – about a third of the company – volunteered to get involved. They decided on a theme: “Designing Medicines to Protect Life,” and figured out a way to model antibodies, tumors and T cells using balls, nails, magnets, Velcro and plastic connectors. Play at being a protein engineer by using stick-like molecules to “go fishing” in plastic bins filled with color-coded Styrofoam balls. The magnets and Velcro bring the “Tumor cells” together with “T cells” so the former can be destroyed. The game models the pharmaceutical company’s actual research on bi-specific antibodies to help fight cancer.

Aptevo’s team will also set up a hands-on demo of leukemia using bottles filled with corn syrup and colored beads. Citizen scientists can participate in a mock random clinical trial involving a spinning bingo cage, bad and good smells and colorful rubber bracelets.

“There’s great camaraderie and everyone is really positive,” Rebecca says. “We focus on the kids, but a lot of my colleagues have a great time talking with parents about biotech and some of the bigger issues in the community.”

Join us for live demonstrations, interactive exhibits and talks for school children, families and citizen scientists by researchers from Aptevo, Washington State University’s Horticultural Department and many more.