COPUS is proud to announce Russell Ledet as the winner of the 2016 Paul Shin Award recognizing “unsung heroes” who have demonstrated commitment and passion in work related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education/outreach, STEM equity/inclusion, and/or scientific literacy.
Looking at Russell today, you see a seemingly tireless and impeccably competent science professional. A Ph.D. candidate at the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine working long hours in prostate cancer research, he also mentors and serves on the board of directors for Clear Direction, the STEM mentoring organization he co-founded along with Julia Derk. It would be easy to assume he has spent his whole life in the field. But as Russell notes, when it comes to successful scientists, “everybody sees the building, nobody sees the foundation”.
Traditionally, the foundation of a STEM career has been characterized as a “pipeline”: a linear pathway through academia that future scientists enter as kindergarteners and emerge from as fully-fledged post-docs. The reality is much less straightforward, as Russell can attest. He had little access to working scientists or high-level STEM institutions growing up, making it hard to connect his experience to theirs. Without a “clear direction” into science, he instead enlisted in the US Navy after high school. It was there that he got to exercise his love of reasoning and analysis by working in cryptology and computer science, and it was there that he had his breakthrough about working in STEM:
“If [kids] don’t see what it’s like to live in that space, you’re talking to deaf ears.”
Matching wits with an opponent during the 2017 COPUS Unconference Day of Service in Ixil
This idea was at the forefront of his development of Clear Direction Mentoring. Clear Direction works to help young people who, like Russell, don’t see an obvious path into the field. The program pairs PhD and MD/PhD students with high school juniors from underprivileged and underrepresented New York City boroughs with an expressed desire to study STEM. Clear Direction mentees explore diverse aspects of STEM in the real world, from attending lectures from experts on the financial, political, or industry aspects of STEM, to lunchtime discussions and experiments with other mentors and mentees.
The mentorship process seeks to “redefine mentorship” to create a relevant, personalized, and ultimately supportive program for each student. “For anyone to be a mentor,” Russell says, “they’ve got to believe that any kid could end up in their position one day…without [the mentee’s] viewpoint, how is our approach relevant?” Mentors are matched to students based on interest, and the experience can involve everything from hands-on lab work to advice on navigating high school during the two years of formal mentorship. Today, Clear Direction has 30 mentors working to inspire students in over 1,000 mentorship hours to date.
Russell presenting on Clear Direction at the 2017 COPUS Unconference
COPUS member Lance Powell, who served on the awards committee, states that the group was in complete agreement that Russell should receive the award. “We were impressed with the success he has had in reaching underrepresented high school aged youth in the sciences and matching them with mentors who they work with long term, and then following them to and through college,” says Lance, noting that the work Clear Direction does exemplifies the ideals of COPUS and Paul Shin. “As a result of his work, not only are more kids finding their passion in science, they are finding opportunities through science to improve their lives.”
Congratulations to Russell — COPUS thanks you for your tireless efforts in STEM and STEM outreach!
By Krystin Ventura En español(thanks to Luis Abdala for the translation!)
What does a leaf look like under a microscope? How did an asteroid cause the extinction of the dinosaurs? How do bees make honey? The young science enthusiasts of Ixil, Yucatán can give you the answers!
On January 15, 2017, the Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) collaborated with the local non-profit, Proyecto Itzaes, to hold the very first science fair in the village of Ixil, Yucatán, Mexico. Proyecto Itzaes program coordinators, Jessica Cetz Dzib and Francisco Pech Cutz, were especially instrumental in orchestrating such a successful day. This event tied perfectly into Proyecto Itzaes’ mission to bring educational resources to rural Maya villages on the Yucatán peninsula, and to infuse the thrilling experience of discovery in these communities.
A diverse group of scientists and educators from Mexico, the United States, and Canada prepared interactive booths spanning chemistry, agroecology, mathematics, physics, and beyond, with the goal of inspiring a sense of scientific curiosity (see full list of science booths below). With hundreds of villagers in attendance — the majority of them children — it was a huge success: by the end of the day, several determined young Ixil engineers had even built a twenty-foot roller coaster out of paper towel rolls and masking tape.
Vital to the success of the event was the bidirectional communication of scientific and cultural learning, between scientists and educators, children and adults, and spanning four languages (Maya, Spanish, Salish, and English). Many of the hands-on activities had particular significance to the local economy and culture, thanks in large part to the involvement of scientists and educators from the region. Community members shared their knowledge of local plant species for use in traditional medicines and home remedies. A local beekeeper displayed one of his hives and shared his extensive knowledge of the trade, including the fact that the Melipona bees native to the area don’t sting! A lively dance festival, photography art show, choir performance from the local schoolchildren, and even a comedy act accompanied the science fair. Additionally, COPUS members brought in microscopes, art supplies, and science gadgets that were not only used for the science fair, but found a permanent home with Proyecto Itzaes for future events. Everyone came away with a greater appreciation for something — be it science, local culture, or the delight seen in a small child’s eye when they learn something new.
The idea for the Day of Service originated two years before at the COPUS Yellowstone Unconference. Members agreed that at future unconferences, we’d partner with nearby organizations to give back to the local community. Our first ever Day of Service in Ixil was an excellent start to this new tradition, and so much more than “giving back.” It was an opportunity for COPUS members to come away with new perspectives, fresh ideas, and a personal connection with a very special place. Just as exciting, this event drew in a new audience for Proyecto Itzaes, broadening awareness and support for their incredible work. And one thing we know for sure — the people of Ixil have some remarkable young minds and talented mentors that when given the opportunity, are powerful contributors in our scientific community.
Robotics — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer Saul and Eric
Agroecology — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer Lucia Cen
Health — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer Edgar Pech and Carmen Cetz
Bees — Proyecto Itzaes volunteer
Chess — Proyecto Itzaes volunteers, and COPUS member Russell Ledet
Roller Coaster Engineering — COPUS members Luis Abdala, Tokiwa Smith, Tom McFadden
Microscopes (dissecting, slide, and foldscopes) — COPUS members Christopher Alvaro, Stu Koretz
Properties of Water — COPUS member Lance Powell and Austin Ayer
Beans of the Yucatán — COPUS members Jorge Carlos Berny Mier y Teran and Kimberly Gibson
Bats of the Yucatán — COPUS member Diana Moreno
Birds of the Yucatán — COPUS member Daniela Tarhuni
Evolution Card Game — COPUS member David Ng
Surface Tension — COPUS members Bill and Ruth Swaney
Asteroid Impacts — COPUS member Lisa White
Perception Shifting Goggles — COPUS members Maya Bialik and Stephanie Sasse
Presentation on mass extinction — COPUS members Rodolfo Dirzo and Guillermina Gomez
Architecture and Art (with kids blocks) — COPUS members Monae Verbeke and Diego Roman
Nest/egg Camouflage Game — COPUS members Monica Albe and Mattias Lanas En español
Día de Servicio 2017 COPUS: Ixil, Yuctán, México
Autor: Krystin Ventura
¿Cómo se ve una hoja debajo de un microscopio? ¿Cómo un asteroide pudo causar la extinción de los dinosaurios? ¿Cómo hacen miel las abejas? ¡Los jóvenes entusiastas de Ixil, Yucatán te pueden dar las respuestas a estas preguntas!
El 15 de enero de 2017, la Coalición para el Entendimiento Público de la Ciencia (COPUS, por sus siglas en inglés) colaboró con la organización no lucrativa, Proyecto Itzáes, para llevar a cabo la primera feria de la ciencia en la localidad de Ixil, Yucatán, México. Los coordinadores de programas de Proyecto Itzáes, Jessica Cetz Dzib y Francisco Pech Cutz, fueron claves en la organización de este exitoso día. El evento compaginó perfectamente con la misión de Proyecto Itzaes de llevar recursos educativos a pueblos mayas rurales y de inyectar en estas comunidades la emocionante experiencia del descubrimiento.
Un grupo diverso de científicos y educadores de México, Estados Unidos, y Canadá prepararon stands interactivos que incluyeron actividades relacionadas a química, agroecología, matemáticas, física, entre otros, con el fin de inspirar un sentimiento de curiosidad científica (ver abajo lista completa de stands). Acudieron cientos de pobladores de Ixil a la feria, – la mayoría de los cuales fueron niños – por lo que el evento resultó un enorme éxito: al final del día, varios jóvenes (futuros) ingenieros de Ixil terminaron de construir una montaña rusa de seis metros de largo usando masking tape y rollos de carton de papel de baño.
La comunicación bidireccional involucrando el aprendizaje científico y cultural entre científicos, educadores, niños y adultos, utilizando cuatro idiomas (maya, español, salish, e inglés), fue de vital importancia para el éxito del evento. Muchas de las actividades manuales e interactivas tuvieron un significado particular para la economía y cultura local, lo cual en gran medida se debió a la participación de científicos y educadores de la region. Miembros de la comunidad compartieron su conocimiento de las plantas locales usadas en medicina tradicional y para producir remedios caseros. Un productor local de miel desplegó una de sus colmenas y compartió su amplio conocimiento de esta actividad productiva, incluyendo el hecho que ¡las abejas meliponas nativas de la región no poseen aguijón! Un animado festival de baile, una diversa exposición fotográfica, un número por parte de un coro de niños locales de una escuela, e incluso un acto de comedia fueron algunas de las actividades que se sumaron a la feria científica. Adicionalmente, los miembros de COPUS trajeron microscopios, insumos artísticos, y artilugios científicos los cuales fueron utilizados en la feria y fueron donados a Proyecto Itzáes para su utilización en futuros eventos. Todos los participantes adquirieron una mejor apreciación de algún fenómeno, idea o sentimiento relacionado a ciencia o cultura local o bien simplemente la satisfacción de ver en los ojos de un niño el sentimiento positivo de aprender algo nuevo.
La idea del Día de Servicio se originó dos años antes durante la no-conferencia de COPUS en Yellowstone. Los miembros acordaron que en no-conferencias futuras COPUS uniría fuerzas con otras organizaciónes para aportar conocimientos a las comunidades locales. Nuestro primer Día de Servicio en Ixil fue un excelente inicio para esta nueva tradición y fue mucho más que solo “aportar conocimientos” a la gente local. Fue una oportunidad para que los miembros de COPUS desarrollaran nuevas perspectivas, ideas frescas, y una conexión personal con un lugar muy especial. De igual forma, el evento atrajo una nueva audiencia para Proyecto Itzáes, incrementando la conciencia y apoyo en relación al increíble trabajo que esta organización esta realizando en Yucatán. Y una cosa que sabemos es completamente cierta: la comunidad de Ixil posee destacadas jóvenes mentes y talensosos mentores los cuales tienen el potencial de contribuir a la ciencia si se les proporcionan las oportunidades.
Matemáticas – Voluntarios de Proyecto Itzáes Aldo Escobedo y Jessica Cetz Dzib
Química — Voluntario de Proyecto Itzáes Emanuel Koyoc
Medicina tradicional – Voluntario de Ixil Luisa Tec
Robotica — Voluntarios de Proyecto Itzáes Saul y Eric
Agroecología — Voluntario de Proyecto Itzáes Lucia Cen
Salud — Voluntarios de Proyecto Itzáes Edgar Pech y Carmen Cetz
Abejas — Voluntario de Proyecto Itzáes
Ajedrés — Voluntarios de Proyecto Itzáes, y miembro de COPUS Russell Ledet
Construcción de montañas rusas – Miembros de COPUS Luis Abdala, Tokiwa Smith, Tom McFadden
Microscopios (disección, muestras) – Miembros de COPUS Christopher Alvaro, Stu Koretz
Propiedades del agua – Miembros de COPUS Lance Powell y Austin Ayer
Frijoles de Yucatán – Miembros de COPUS Jorge Carlos Berny Mier y Teran y Kimberly Gibson
Murciélagos de Yucatán – Miembro de COPUS Diana Moreno
Aves de Yucatán – Miembro de COPUS Daniela Tarhuni
Juego de cartas de evolución – Miembro de COPUS David Ng
Tensión superficial – Miembros de COPUS Bill y Ruth Swaney
Impactos de asteroides – Miembro de COPUS Lisa White
Gogles que afectan la percepción visual – Miembros de COPUS Maya Bialik y Stephanie Sasse
Presentación de extinciones masivas – Miembros de COPUS Rodolfo Dirzo y Guillermina Gómez
Arquitectura y artes (con materiales para niños) – Miembros de COPUS Monae Verbeke y Diego Roman
Juego de camuflaje con nidos y huevos – Miembros de COPUS Monica Albe y Mattias Lanas
COPUS gives a big, heartfelt thank you to the lovely town of Ixil, our awesome collaborators at Proyecto Itzaes, and all our supporters for making the Science Fair in Ixil, Mexico possible! We’ll be sharing more stories about that and our Yucatán unconference soon….
Her STEM education and outreach work (mainly in the biological/zoological sciences) is for public audiences. Jen has been a long standing member of COPUS and we’re grateful for her contributions to large collaborations (like the UCMP’s Understanding Science and Understanding Evolution websites).
She’s currently focusing on 1) training volunteers of the Sant Ocean Hall how to effectively communicate about how science works and climate change in the context of exhibits and interactive activities; 2) connecting researchers to education and outreach efforts; 3) exploring ways to use objects to engage visitors in conversation.
Some things she’d like to talk to other COPUS members about:
Visitor engagement strategies
Working with volunteers
Science education researh
Jen’s located in Virginia and is interested in connecting with folks all over the map.
One of Jen’s memorable STEM moments:
“Watching engineers, scientists, lab techs, and welders gathered around a drill pipe onboard the JOIDES Resolution trying to solve a problem with the deployment of a tool into the seafloor. They talked, pointed, talked, tweaked, then finally brought out the duct tape!”
Donate here to help us reach our goal: $10,000 for the Mexico Unconference and Science Fair.
As of January 11th, we’ve raised $5,050. Thanks to all of you who’ve donated so far! Let’s keep it going — it’s not too late to give a gift!
Your donation allows us to connect science educators and activists from around the United States with science super stars and students in the Maya community of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated — and check out our awesome rewards:
$50 = after the January unconference, receive a thank you card with a group photo of us all in Mexico.
$100 = after Mexico, receive a thank you card and a drawing from one of the students from the science outreach event.
$250 = after Mexico, thank you card, and a penpal opportunity with a Proyecto Itzaes budding scientist.
$500 = COPUS will give you or your organization/company a shout-out on our website and social media (with links to your site and their logo). Link and logo will stay on our website for one year from posting date.
$1000 = Cindy Wilber will give you a personal tour of ‘Hidden Yucatan.’ Airfare not included, but housing (right near beach) and food and a tour guide is!
Email us if you’d also like to donate school/science materials for the Maya community.
We’ll be posting updates about our fundraising goals each week, so check back here and please share with your friends!
COPUS is a completely not-for-profit, volunteer network of individuals and organizations across the nation focusing on scientific literacy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education, and STEM equity/inclusion. Funds are used for fostering community and collaborations in STEM education (such as our unconferences) or providing educational materials to communities in need. Donations are collected through our University of California at Berkeley hub and are 100% tax deductible.
A huge thank you to Tom McFadden of SciencewithTom for creating our beautiful crowdfunding video. And special thanks to Tokiwa Smith of SEMLink, Edward Samaniego of ES Visual Studies, Diego Román, and all other COPUS contributors for the awesome pictures and videos used.
Where’s our next unconference? The Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico!
This unconference is going to be incredible, and styled a little different from the last one. The new style will allow all attendees to really get to know each other and bond not only over activities and presentations, but through shared experiences and interactions with the local community.
It is a casual, warm, intimate experience for around 25-30 people to share their expertise, best practices, ideas for innovations — and hopefully inspire cross-disciplinary/cultural/regional collaborations. As our mission states, “COPUS is a diverse trans-disciplinary network of individuals and organizations dedicated to public engagement with science. Members represent a wide range of stakeholders and constituencies who work together to articulate a shared vision and accelerate our collective impact.”
This gathering is several things:
A celebration of STEM education/outreach and the individuals that work tirelessly to promote it.
An opportunity for the COPUS members to share and learn from the local scientists, educators, and community members through an interactive STEM fair event. Our goal is to empower the local community with science and science connections — but to learn from their expertise and gain understanding from their experiences and perspectives too!
An opportunity for professional development and networking.
An opportunity for us all to share with each other and recharge for the year – bringing home cool new ideas and possible connections/ideas for grants, etc.
We will be in the town of Chicxulub Puerto about 35 km from the north side of Merida and about 45 minutes from the airport. For this unconference, we’re partnering with Proyecto Itzaes to connect in with the local community of teachers, scientists, and families.
Tentative Schedule (subject to change): Note: through out the unconference, we will be focusing on providing professional development and networking opportunities for all attendees.
Friday, Jan 13th: arrivals and evening networking social
(for those that are here for the full day, we’ll hold a strategic meeting, review our 2016 COPUS events/activities, prepare for Day of Service)
Saturday, Jan 14th:
1) sharing of expertise & member activities from 2016
2) finding points of overlap (grants and collaborations)
3) working group formation for 2017
4) award ceremony & presentations (Paul Shin & Judy Scotchmoor Awards)
Sunday, Jan 15th: Day of Service
interacting with local scientists and teachers, science fair with the Maya community
Monday, Jan 16th: Meeting wrap-up, departures
for those that are here for the full day, we’ll have a “Day of Action” —
1) data sharing for projects
2) make headway on working group action items
3) reporting on Day of Service for website/social media & grants
Cynthia Kramer, SCOPE founder and COPUS member, is committed to connecting the amazing resources in Missouri and other states across the nation, to parents and teachers, and by invoking interest in kids to excite them about STEM.
Scope’s Mission: To share information and connect real life opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) related: activities, programs, organizations, scholarships, internships and workforce opportunities; in order to better the lives of citizens, our economy and global leadership in innovation.
There’s so many things you can do at the SCOPE website! These resources are especially awesome for folks in the midwest (Iowa, Missouri, and surrounding areas).
Regretfully I can’t remember how we actually first met. It seems that he was just always there. Lee had an impressive geology career and was serving as the State Geologist and Director of the Kansas Geological Survey during the critical years of cyclic episodes of creationism that overtook the Kansas science standards. So most certainly our paths crossed at the National Conference on the Teaching of Evolution in 2000 if not before.
But in 2005, Lee Allison walked into my office at UC Berkeley, sat down, and said “Judy, we’ve got to do something about these anti-evolution guys – they are anti science!” That was all it took to trigger the idea and then the actions that gave birth to COPUS. That’s who Lee was. He had an unmatched and undeterred energy and enthusiasm about him. Plus, he had an overwhelming passion for understanding the history of our earth and a deep-lying respect for the science that could provide the answers and stimulate more questions.
It seemed that with every encounter with everyone, Lee sparked creative and expanded thinking. That was as true late in his career as it was at our Berkeley meeting in 2005. So before I knew it, we had secured funding from NSF to bring in some folks for brainstorming a national initiative with three goals:
developing a shared appreciation of science, its contributions to the quality of life, and its underlying role in advances in technology and engineering
informing and engaging the public in and about science, its process and products
making science more accessible to everyone
And we even came up with a name – the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science – COPUS.
Soon there was a COPUS Core of people sharing ideas of concrete steps toward those lofty goals. This resulted in the Year of Science 2009 and the crazy idea of holding an unconference and Lee found the perfect venue – the Biosphere. There in the Arizona desert, the COPUS Core expanded into the COPUS Corps and an annual unconference became the norm… all because of a guy with an impish grin, a huge heart, and an amazing energy.
It was always fun and comfortable being around Lee – whether at a meeting of the minds in DC or sharing a beer at GSA or hanging out with COPUS friends at an unconference. You just wanted to be around him. He will be sorely missed.
Tom McFadden (pictured left, next to Bill Nye the Science Guy) is a Middle School Science Teacher (The Nueva School) & Founder of “Science With Tom.”
His STEM education and outreach work (mainly in the biological sciences) is for K-12 audiences and the general public. He’s currently focusing on increasing student engagement with science via music and YouTube (and interviewing diverse scientists about their work).
Some things he’d like to talk to other COPUS members about:
Running your own entity (both for profit and non profit)
Next Generation Science Standards
Opportunities for live musical performances and workshops
Tom’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, and particularly interested in connecting with others nearby.
One of Tom’s memorable STEM moments:
“Learning about protein synthesis in 9th grade biology. The realization that each cell in our body is teaming with billions of micro-machines whirring away turning the outside world into ourselves.”
In her own words: “Every report card I brought home from grade school noted “Is too talkative during class,” but I prefer to translate that to “Enjoys communicating with her classmates.” Today, I’ve channeled that love of talking into a career in science communications and education.”
Jenny is a producer for youth and family programming and is currently the co-managing editor at SciStarter. She has been a writer and editor at WGBH in Boston, where she produced materials for the Emmy-nominated PBS KIDS ecosystem science program PLUM LANDING. You’ll sometimes find her writing about science, education, and creativity for outlets including The Boston Globe, Science News for Students, and the New York Times Learning Network as well. When she’s not talking about science, you’ll find her kayaking with her family, cheering for the Green Bay Packers, and looking for slimy things under logs.
Three words that describe Jenny:
Curious, kayaker, nerd
The dots Jenny connects:
Science + k-12 education + journalism
Mónica grew up in rural Puerto Rico, surrounded by nature and with a cow in her backyard, which sparked her interest in all things biology. A scientist-turned-communicator, she loves building connections to make science and scientists accessible to all. Her bilingual outreach and communication efforts focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics and opportunities, as well as increasing equity, access and diversity in science and science communication.
Mónica has received numerous awards and recognitions, including a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the COPUS Paul Shin Memorial Award (2013) for her efforts to increase public understanding of science among Hispanic audiences. Her work has been featured on international media outlets, such as Univisión, VOXXI, and Scientific American among others.
She has a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology from the University of Puerto Rico in Bayamón and a Ph.D. in Neurobiology from Harvard University. Mónica is the vice-director and news editor-in-chief of Ciencia Puerto Rico (@CienciaPR), an organization leveraging social networks to engage Hispanic scientists in science communication and education. Mónica is also the Science Outreach Program Manager for iBiology, an UCSF-based non-profit organization that produces educational open-access videos on research and science-related topics featuring the world’s leading biologists.
Three words that describe Mónica: Borinqueña, curious, loves stories
The dots Mónica connects: She leverages online communities to connect scientists, educators and the media to empower people through science.
Dr. Diego Román is an Assistant Professor in Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, specializing in bilingual and science education.
He holds a B.S. degree in Agronomy from Zamorano University in Honduras and a M.S. degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He earned a M.S. degree in Biology, a M.A. in Linguistics, and a Ph.D. degree in Educational Linguistics, all from Stanford University.
Prior to starting his studies at Stanford University, Dr. Román taught middle school science to English Learners and newcomer students for seven years, first in rural Wisconsin and then in San Francisco, California.
Three words that describe Diego:
language, science, travel
The dots that Diego connects:
Latino/Latina students in science education, international education, language acquisition
Lance Powell has used the environment as a vehicle to teach science in the Bay Area for most of the last 19 years. He has been involved in a variety of schools ranging from the inner city of San Francisco to where he is now, down the Peninsula in the Menlo Park area. As an educator, he strives to bring science alive while improving student thinking and work habits. He is all about hands-on science, inquiry work and getting kids outside.
Joel K. Abraham is an assistant professor of biology education in the Department of Biological Science at California State University, Fullerton. Joel and his students study a wide range of topics, including non-native plant invasions in California ecosystems, sustainable urban agriculture, student conceptions and competencies in science, and teacher education and hiring practices. Many of his students have community-based research projects, partnering with local urban gardens and schools.
Joel received his PhD in biology at UC Berkeley, and was a postdoctoral researcher at the Scheller Teacher Education Program at MIT. He is active in a number of programs and committees aimed at increasing diversity and public engagement in science.
Three words that describe Joel:
Ecology, Education, Community
Gina is the Co-Director of iExploreSTEM, a non-profit volunteer organization that
produces and supports public STEM events, primarily in rural and remote areas. Their focus is
STEM festivals, but they also work with communities to help them produce other types of STEM events as
Gina is engaged in research to help us better understand the impact of public science events on
the public value, appreciation, and understanding of science. She is an emeritus associate professor
at the University of Iowa where she taught and ran a lab researching the use of stem cells to treat
vascular disease in people with diabetes.
She likes being outdoors, especially in the mountains, and loves (non-motorized) winter sports.
Three words that describe Gina:
scientist, STEM festival advocate, policy wonk wannabe
The dots Gina connects:
She organizes science festivals, and these require the building of broad-based coalitions in communities. She works to connect STEM education stakeholders in Idaho to share policy best practices in promoting STEM careers and enhancing STEM education.
Amber Finley is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation, and is also Spirit Lake Dakota and Standing Rock Lakota on her maternal grandmother’s side. Although she was raised in California, her home is Mandaree, located on the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota. Amber was a two-time graduate of Fort Berthold Community College before receiving her Bachelor of Science in Fisheries & Wildlife Biology from Univeristy of North Dakota in 2006. In 2008, she earned her Master of Science in Environmental Management from the University of San Francisco. Amber is a Gates Millennium Scholar alum, a lifetime Sequoyah member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, and serves as a mentor for several diversity-based organizations.
After returning to Grand Forks, Amber worked with other members of the American Indian community, exploring avenues for cultural awareness, development, and expression. In 2010, the group established Northstar Council, an organization with the mission of empowering indigenous people through research, education, and outreach. Finley is the Executive Director of Northstar Council.
In 2015, Amber received the Gates Millennium Scholars Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Three words that describe Amber:
Honest, Kind, Humble
The dots that Amber connects:
Culture, Science,Traditional Knowledge, and Communities
Denny Casey is Director of Education and Public Programs at Virginia Museum of Natural History. He is also an adjunct instructor with state and private universities as instructor of science methods and education courses. His degrees are in natural science education and science curriculum and instruction, all from Virginia Tech.
His research interests include:
education for social justice, social constructivism
history and nature of science and technology
earth systems science education.
His professional service includes: Journal of Virginia Science Education and Web Administrator for Virginia Association of Science Teachers and the Virginia Junior Academy Of Science, Virginia Master Naturalist Program, Virginia Resource Use Education Council, and National Science Teachers Association Council as District VIII Director, 2015-2018.
Three words that describe Denny:
Science educator and researcher, nature and techno-geek, community volunteer
The dots Denny connects:
Formal and informal natural history and STEM education throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia; educators, science, and professional development.
Eve Klein manages the Portal to the Public Network, based at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington. Eve’s background is in the physical sciences, and she also has a masters in education (her research was in public perceptions of science). She is interested in when and where adults acquire the science knowledge needed for safety, productivity, and civic engagement.
A Little About Portal to the Public:
The Portal to the Public approach helps Informal Science Education (ISE) organizations connect public audiences with current science in their own communities through direct interactions with local science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) researchers and experts. The Portal to the Public framework has been implemented at over 44 institutions that form the Portal to the Public Network (PoPNet), a diverse community of practitioners dedicated to sharing ideas and strategies for scientist-and-public engagement. Through funding from the National Science Foundation, PoPNet has expanded to a range of informal science settings including university outreach groups, zoos, aquariums, and nature centers. The Network continues to expand and would like to connect with new institutions and other ISE organizations. Find out more information on joining PoPNet here.
Three words that describe Eve:
Adventurer, scrabble fiend, learner
The dots Eve connects:
She brings hands-on, inquiry based science activities to rural schools to provide students with positive, empowering learning experiences.
Amy is an Assistant Professor of Science at Emerson College in Boston; a liberal arts school devoted to communication and the arts. Working closely with talented Emerson undergraduates and a local community of early career research scientists, Amy pursues a passion for addressing communication barriers between scientists, the media, and the public. She has established a Science Communication Collaborative that partners scientists and future artists and communicators for mutual communication training and has worked to build a foundation for the “Ask for Evidence” campaign in the US. To Amy’s great satisfaction, #askforevidence has been adopted in her household (by 3-year old, Jackson, and husband, Shane) as a verbal shorthand for expressing scientific skepticism.
Amy was the 2014 COPUS winner of the annual Paul Shin Award, honoring the unsung heroes of science communication and engagement. Morgan Thompson, PhD, Assistant Director at the Center for Biomedical Career Development, nominated Amy for the award, saying Amy is “shaping the foundational scientific understanding of future communicators – both conceptual knowledge as well as the process of science and ability to critically evaluate evidence.” The Emerson Science Communication Collaborative “pairs undergraduate students interested in science communication with local early career scientists in a semester-long series of exchanges to further the training and skills of both audiences. Scientists are provided a rare opportunity early in their careers to practice media skills and effective communication with lay audiences in a non-threatening, low-risk environment that utilizes the expertise of Emerson students. The undergraduates come to know the person behind the scientist, helping to dispel popular misconceptions about the process of science and providing more accurate, nuanced, and diverse portraits of who does science. Culminating projects range from children’s books to public service announcements to a musical composition based upon the genetic sequence of a strain of H1N1 flu virus.”
Three words that describe Amy:
Scientist-educator, Idea-collector, Evidence-lover.
The dots Amy connects:
She connects arts and communication students and the scientific community and she connects anyone who will listen to evidence.
Lisa White is Director of Education and Outreach at the UC Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley. In this role she promotes teaching and learning of science, particularly of evolution, the fossil record, and the nature and impacts of global change, through online resources and hands-on science. A geologist and micropaleontologist by training, she previously held positions of Professor of Geosciences at San Francisco State University and she is active in efforts to diversify the geosciences through wide-ranging field and research experience programs for urban youth. These include the SF-ROCKS (Reaching out the Communities and Kids with Science in San Francisco) and METALS (Minority Education Through Teaching and Learning in the Sciences) programs that benefit from collaborations with scientists and faculty at the University of New Orleans and the University of Texas at El Paso.
California Magazine put it well:
“As an African-American woman in one of the least diverse scientific fields, White, director of education and public programs at the University of California’s Museum of Paleontology, is accustomed to playing the part of role model. ‘There are very few female black geoscientists who study paleontology, so I get it,’ she says with a chuckle. ‘I’m going to be asked reach out to youth a lot.'”
(…and we know Lisa doesn’t see this as a chore — she loves it.)
Watch Lisa in Nova’s “Making North America” where she highlights California geology in episodes one (Origins) and three (Human).
Three words that describe Lisa:
Paleontologist, educator, sports fan!
The dots Lisa connects:
She connects communities to science through places — both local and global — that are meaningful to their lives: parks and outdoor spaces, neighborhoods, educational centers, and museums.
Lisa, in her role as Director of Education and Outreach, at the UCMP, is spearheading a new “Understanding Global Change” website project — soon to be be a sibling to the already existing Understanding Evolution, and Understanding Science resource websites.
Understanding Evolution is a non-commercial, education website, teaching the science and history of evolutionary biology. This site is here to help you understand what evolution is, how it works, how it factors into your life, how research in evolutionary biology is performed, and how ideas in this area have changed over time.
Evo 101 — an in-depth course on the science of evolution
Teaching Materials — the ultimate resource for teachers!
Resource Library — a browsable archive of articles, tutorials, interactive investigations and more.
The Understanding Evolution site has been a long, on-going collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education. For more information, see their credits page. UCMP continues to develop and maintain partnerships with other scientific and educational organizations in a joint effort to support evolution education. For a listing of these organizations, see their collaborations page. Consider collaborating!
Thanks to Lisa White, and everyone at the UCMP, for making this great resource available to the public.
The mission of Understanding Science is to provide a fun, accessible, and free resource that accurately communicates what science is and how it really works. The process of science is exciting, but standard explanations often miss its dynamic nature. Science affects us all everyday, but people often feel cut off from science. Science is an intensely human endeavor, but many portrayals gloss over the passion, curiosity, and even rivalries and pitfalls that characterize all human ventures. Understanding Science gives users an inside look at the general principles, methods, and motivations that underlie all of science.
This project has at its heart a re-engagement with science that begins with teacher preparation and ends with broader public understanding. Its immediate goals are to (1) improve teacher understanding of the nature of the scientific enterprise, (2) provide resources and strategies that encourage and enable K-16 teachers to reinforce the nature of science throughout their science teaching, and (3) provide a clear and informative reference for students and the general public that accurately portrays the scientific endeavor.
The Understanding Science site was produced by the UC Museum of Paleontology of the University of California at Berkeley, in collaboration with a diverse group of scientists and teachers, and was funded by the National Science Foundation. Understanding Science was informed and initially inspired by our work on the Understanding Evolution project, which highlighted the fact that many misconceptions regarding evolution spring from misunderstandings of the nature of science. Furthermore, research indicates that students and teachers at all grade levels have inadequate understandings of the nature and process of science, which may be traced to classrooms in which science is taught as a simple, linear, and non-generative process. This false and impoverished depiction disengages students, discourages public support, and may help explain current indications that the U.S. is losing its global edge in science. Even beyond the health of the U.S. economy, the public has a genuine need to critically assess conflicting representations of scientific evidence in the media. To do this, they need to understand the strengths, limitations, and basic methods of the enterprise that has produced those claims. Understanding Science takes an important step towards meeting these needs.
Thanks to Lisa White, and everyone at the UCMP, for making this great resource available to the public!
The mission of the Science Festival Alliance (SFA) is to foster a professional community dedicated to more and better science and technology festivals. Check them out at http://sciencefestivals.org/
Whether you are a science lover, looking for opportunities for science enrichment for you and your community, OR you’re a scientist or working with an organization that is hoping to connect with the public through science outreach activities — visit the Science Festival Alliance out to learn more about annual science festivals.
When the SFA began in 2009 only a handful of science festivals existed in the United States, and they were not working (or even communicating) with each other. Since that time, the country has enjoyed a surge in the number of science festivals, and the SFA is now networking together dozens of independently operated festival initiatives. Whether you are considering starting a new science festival, would like to partner with existing festivals, or are just interested in learning about the latest developments, the Science Festival Alliance is the best place to begin.
The SFA is not an independent organization, nor is it the exclusive project of a single institution (though two full-time staff members dedicated to the SFA are housed at the MIT Museum). It is a collaborative network involving institutions, initiatives, and individuals that have committed to work together to best serve our communities through the festival format.
Thanks to Ben Wiehe for helping to raise awareness of this amazing resource within the COPUS corps!
SciStarter is the place to find, join, and contribute to science through recreational activities and citizen science research projects. Their database of citizen science projects enable discovery, organization, and greater participation in citizen science. Check them out at http://scistarter.com/
If you are a scientist or a representative of a citizen science organization or community: SciStarter is the organization and community to tell eager people about your work and get them interested in helping out. If you do not represent a project, but have a favorite citizen science you’d like to see added to the SciStarter Project Finder, consider inviting someone from the project to add the project or drop a tip about the project.
SciStarter’s Mission is to bring together the millions of citizen scientists in the world; the thousands of potential projects offered by researchers, organizations, and companies; and the resources, products, and services that enable citizens to pursue and enjoy these activities.
They aim to:
Enable and encourage people to learn about, participate in, and contribute to science through both informal recreational activities and formal research efforts.
Inspire greater appreciation and promote a better understanding of science and technology among the general public.
Create a shared space where scientists can talk with citizens interested in working on or learning about their research projects.
Satisfy the popular urge to tinker, build, and explore by making it simple and fun for people—singles, parents, grandparents, kids—to jump in and get their hands dirty with science.
Thanks to Darlene Cavalier for helping to raise awareness of SciStarter within the COPUS corps!
Wayne Himelsein is President of Informed by Nature (http://informedbynature.org/), a non-profit with the goals of advancing the public understanding of science, and concurrently, the Senior Managing Partner of Logica Capital, a successful investment company. At Logica, Wayne heads the investment team and R&D, as well as engages with investors globally. Prior to Logica, Wayne built and managed several hedge funds that invested in his quantitative strategies. Wayne’s financial career began in 1995, when he traded securities and developed algorithms that were used to launch his first hedge fund. Wayne’s lifelong passion for science has served him well in his financial pursuits and in his personal quest to explore deep questions. An appreciation of the powerful tools of science led him to establish Informed by Nature in 2004. Wayne holds a BA from Berkeley and resides in Los Angeles.
Three words that describe Wayne:
Science lover, business builder, people person.
The dots that Wayne connects:
He connects anyone who has an internet connection to content demonstrating the amazing breadth of science. He connects students who have an interest in science to programs that help strengthen that interest.
Ask for Evidence is a public campaign that helps people request for themselves the evidence behind news stories, marketing claims and policies.
We hear daily claims about what is good for our health, bad for the environment, how to improve education, cut crime, treat disease or improve agriculture. Some are based on reliable evidence and scientific rigour. Many are not.
How can we make companies, politicians, commentators and official bodies accountable for the claims they make? If they want us to vote for them, believe them or buy their products, then we should Ask for Evidence.
Ask for Evidence was launched by Sense About Science in 2011. Sense About Science is a charity that helps people to make sense of science and evidence and promote use of evidence in public life. This takes us from responding to outlandish diet claims by celebrities to helping parents understand vaccines, from working with people with chronic diseases to beat misleading ‘cure’ claims on the Internet to pressing for sound use of statistics in media reporting.
Ben Wiehe is manager of the Science Festival Alliance. He grew up going to smallest public school system in Connecticut. He went to a liberal arts college in Maine: physics and philosophy major with time abroad for Tibetan studies. He then worked his way around North America (Chiapas to Aleutians) for a long while. (After grad school in Chicago for social science, he worked for natural parks, science centers, and public television). Three years of getting science cafes started around the US led into his current position at MIT managing the Science Festival Alliance. Ben has been a part of COPUS since the beginning!
Here’s Ben’s take on COPUS:
“COPUS has been important for me for a long time. I’ve always felt that I get more out of my involvement with it than I give. Of course over the years my needs have shifted. And this is the thing that is most important about COPUS to me — I’ll sum it up to folks that don’t know much about the group:
COPUS identifies emerging leaders with little institutional backing for their passion and provides them with a supportive network.
I’ve gone through that change to an extent, and so have many of the original members. Natalie has now launched a new nonprofit. Danielle is making waves in all kinds of directions. Darlene has sorted through several of her passions and figured out how to make them reality via I-can’t-count-how-many business models. etc…
So welcome! Stay involved, give back — one of the things an emerging leader needs to thrive is the opportunity to lead.”
Three words that describe Ben:
He is a a social creature, hack of all trades, scavenger.
The dots Ben connects:
He connects science festival organizers to each other, and to regional/national collaborators.
Sheri Potter, BS, is the director of community and stakeholder engagement for the Association for Women in Science, the leading advocate for women in STEM . She is also a project director for SciStarter implementing a collaborative program to bring citizen science to classrooms, hand-in-hand with NASA’s GLOBE initiative and National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools program. Sheri is a social intrapreneur with a strong commitment to developing more effective strategies to connect people to science.
Sheri’s personal mission is to build a scientific citizenry of people who understand how science works, why science matters, and what scientists do – and to help them connect that knowledge with their own lifelong journey as a citizen who benefits from, participates in, and uses science.
Sheri worked at the American Institute of Biological Sciences for over ten years in multiple capacities, including as director of membership and public programs. She launched the Leadership in Biology initiative, Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science, ActionBioscience.org and Year of Science 2009. Sheri earned an Executive Certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania and has a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Three words that describe Sheri:
I’m with you.
The dots Sheri connects:
Sheri connects cool people to cool people to spread ideas and opportunities that promote people using and celebrating science.
As the content coordinator for AskNature.org, Jeanette Lim expands and curates AskNature content with the help of a collaborative community of students, scientists, and educators interested in sustainability and natureinspired design.
She brings a life‐long fascination with the natural world, along with a PhD in biology, to her work with the Biomimicry Institute.
Madhusudan Katti (Madhu for short) is an evolutionary ecologist studying biodiversity in social-ecological systems such as cities, and seeking ways to reconcile biodiversity conservation with human well-being. He is an Associate Professor of Biology at California State University, Fresno.
He communicates science to diverse audiences through a variety of media:
Cindy Wilber is many things — the Education Coordinator at Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (at Stanford University), the Executive Director and founder of Proyecto Itzaes, the Education Director for Centro de Educación Ambiental de la Peninsula Yucateca (CEAPY) and the advisor to the Stanford SEEDS student group (Strategies for Ecology Education diversity and Sustainability).
A Little About Jasper Ridge:
Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (JRBP) is located near Stanford University’s campus in the eastern foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The preserve encompasses remarkable geologic, topographic, and biotic diversity within its 481 hectares (1,189 acres) and provides a natural laboratory for researchers from all over the world, educational experiences to students and docent-led visitors, and refuge to native plants and animals.
A Little About Proyecto Itzaes:
Proyecto Itzaes, a non-profit organization that is a free, community service based, educational program in Yucatán, Mexico. PI serves communities where traditional subsistence lifestyles dependent on farming and seasonal fishing can no longer support families and is currently serving the villages of Chicxulub Pueblo, Ixil, Dzemul and the tiny village of Too. PI’s original village of Chicxulub Puerto became fully self-sustaining in 2005!
early childhood reading and family literacy programs
science in the villages program
health and environment programs
cultural and language preservation
bio-intensive gardening programs
Cindy lives and works in both Palo Alto, California and in Chicxulub Puerto, Yucatán, Mexico.
Three words that describe Cindy:
teaching, science, outreach
The dots Cindy connects:
University to k‐12 to public to Mexico to ESA and more
He pursues his marine interest by leading tide pool tours at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and scuba diving with people who have strong marine interests. He enjoys communicating science to people with a wide range of backgrounds and watching them absorb new information and concepts.
Three words that describe Bill:
Ecology tour leader, field research voluteer, marine biology enthusiast
The dots that Bill connects:
Bill connects Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve science to students and visiting public. He connects high school and college students to marine inter-tidal science through leading tours at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. By volunteering, he helps teach science and math at Redwood High School.
Barry Greenwald is a Chicagoan who has called Minnesota home since he moved there after college. Teaching as a full-time occupation is his third career — after enjoyable years as an agricultural research technician, and later in sales and administration.
He’s now in his 15th year of teaching urban high school students in St. Paul, in courses ranging from biology, IB Biology, environmental science to earth science. He does volunteer work on the World Food Prize Minnesota Youth Institute, as well as local citizen science activities.
Three words that describe Barry:
A grateful father to my daughter; teacher; always on the lookout for good humor.
The dots that he connects:
Barry connects scientists and instructors from the University of Minnesota to high school classrooms. He makes connections for his high school biology and environmental science students between the classroom and their “real lives” — current and future — outside of school.
Darlene is the founder of SciStarter and Science Cheerleader, a popular website and organization that works with 250 current and former NFL and NBA cheerleaders pursuing science and technology careers to promote science and the involvement of citizens in science and science-related policy. She has held executive positions at Walt Disney Publishing and has worked at Discover magazine for 15 years, where she now is a senior adviser and writer. She has created national science awards programs, science education initiatives, and a series of science-themed roundtable discussions for, among others, the Disney Institute, Space.com, Sally Ride’s Imaginary Lines, and the Franklin Institute. She also serves on the Steering Committee for Science Debate and is a founding partner of Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology and blog, which engages experts, stakeholders, and everyday citizens in assessing the implications of emerging developments in science and technology. She originated and managed the Emmy award-winning Science of NFL Football series produced by the NFL, NBC Sports, NBC Learn, the National Science Foundation and Science Cheerleader.
A former Philadelphia 76ers cheerleader, Darlene does not regret the years she gabbed through high school science classes. She earned a Master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, studying science history, sociology, and science policy to learn more about people like herself: “hybrid actors,” citizens interested in but not formally trained in the sciences. Discovering it was remarkably difficult to find opportunities to participate in science in any meaningful way, she launched SciStarter. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children, who have made it a hobby to explore the rainforests of Costa Rica. She’s also a Professor of Practice at Arizona State University’s Consortium of Science, Policy, and Outcomes.
Cavalier is the proud recipient of a Shuttleworth Foundation Flash Grant to support “people with brilliant ideas” and she is investing that grant in the development of a series of media partnerships to help bring more citizen science opportunities to more communities.
Three words that describe Darlene:
Science and citizen advocate; founder of Science Cheerleader and SciStarter; contributing editor, Discover Magazine; wife and mom.
The dots Darlene connects:
She connects the public to citizen science activities. She connects researchers to the public. She connects underrepresented groups to science.
Betsy Barent has been teaching for twelve years and is currently teaching 8th grade science, having also taught Advanced Biology, Differentiated Biology, Practical Biology and Physical Science at the high school level.
In 2015, Betsy was selected as state finalist for the Presidential Award! She was chosen as one of four Nebraska state-level finalist for this year’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Secondary Science Teaching. “Betsy is a master teacher, committed to using innovative teaching methods that actively engage students in their own learning.” Mary Jo Leininger, Norris Middle School principal, said. “She has great passion for science and for her students and is very deserving of this prestigious recognition.”
Three words that describe Betsy:
Avid Husker fan, love to exercise, mom of two
The dots that Betsy connects:
Betsy connects teachers with teachers in our district and the state. She connects students and parents with science opportunities.
Previous to managing the education and public outreach for the Space Science Institute, she worked at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and at the Mauna Kea Visitor Center.
She is a big advocate for libraries and librarians! Her favorite part of her job is helping librarians find easy and cheap activities to do with their patrons, and convincing them that they’re more than capable of doing STEM in their libraries.
Three words that describe Anne:
Space educator, skiier, new mom
The dots she connects:
She connects librarians with scientists and science educators
Science is all about figuring “stuff” out – so that we understand our world better. Science helps us investigate questions and solve problems in just about every way imaginable. That is pretty cool! On this patch journey, you will learn about how science works, who scientists are, and why science matters. In doing this, you will test your science know-how, go on a real science adventure, and learn how to be a good scientific citizen throughout your life. So grab your pen and paper and let’s get started!
1. Check your “science know-how”
2. Observe and ask questions the way scientists do!
3. Get involved in a citizen science project
4. Share what it means to be a scientific citizen
Purpose: When I’ve earned this badge, I’ll know how science works, who scientists are, and why science matters.
Cynthia Kramer founded SCOPE in 2007, when a clinical trial saved her life (read more here). This grassroots initiative is dedicated to bringing Science and Technology’s relevance, resources and information to communities (at no cost) from education to workforce, so the public can connect to why it matters, how to participate and ways to benefit as a parent, student or citizen.
Through community building, events, State and County Fairs, SCOPE serves over 36 communities, in Missouri and Iowa, to impact over 500,000 people. Kramer was previously a shoe designer, created the first backless women’s tennis shoe and loves travel with sons Mitchell and Samuel.
Three words that describe Cynthia:
Coffee addict, Social Justice Advocate, Lover of Innvoation
The dots she connects: SCOPE connects rural, urban and suburban communities to Science and Technology resources and information, from Education to Financial Aid, Scholarships, Internships, Jobs and Careers. They connect parents, students and families to the relevancy and importance of Science and Technology for the betterment of our future, communities and lives.
Informed by Nature (IBN) works to advance the public understanding and appreciation of science, from its elegant approach to its awe-inspiring results. We are dedicated to encouraging lifelong learning, promoting critical thinking, and celebrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
How They Do It
ONLINE: IBN accomplishes its objectives by opening homes, schools, libraries, and any internet connection to an innovative online science portal that makes learning about science and its relevance to our lives easy and engaging. IBN compiles the best science literature, lectures, films, magazines, videos, and art, among other media, in a searchable, user-friendly website that captures science enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
OFFLINE: Our outreach programs aim to educate and inspire, whether providing the online platform for student science projects and science fairs or creating a network of high school science clubs that facilitates structured activities, hosted events, online projects, and competitions. IBN further fosters public involvement in science learning by bringing professionals to the classroom to talk about how critical thinking and science knowledge inform us daily, encouraging today’s specialists to inspire tomorrow’s innovators with an appreciation for science
Why They Do It
Through all our efforts, IBN strives to touch every life with the wonder of science, encouraging learning, critical thinking, and giving everyone the building blocks for discovery and innovation.
Learn more at http://informedbynature.org/ and thanks to Wayne Himelsein for sharing this website with the COPUS community!
The Coalition for the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) today announced this year’s winner of the third annual Paul Shin Award, honoring the unsung heroes of science communication and engagement.
The 2014 winner is Dr. Amy Vashlishan Murray, Assistant Professor of Science (in the Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies) at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts.
As a tenure-track science faculty member at Emerson College, one might think that Amy has her hands full: she teaches undergraduates with a focused interest in art and communication while conducting research in neurobiology in the Kaplan lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. But Amy recognizes that she’s uniquely situated — she’s interfacing with young talent in communication and art AND with cutting edge science. With a seemingly boundless energy, she’s capitalized on her situation to create innovative synergies that enhance the public’s understanding of science. Among her achievements are the founding of the Emerson Science Communication Collaborative and helping to establish the “Ask For Evidence” campaign in the US.
Amy explains: “I am driven by the belief that the role and responsibility of the scientist includes anticipating the social impact of development in her field and striving to develop well-informed consumers of scientific information. Initiatives like Ask for Evidence and the Science Communication Collaborative build from this belief by empowering students and members of the public to question the science they encounter in their daily lives and by engaging these stakeholders in communication exchanges with the scientific community.”
Morgan Thompson, PhD, Assistant Director at the Center for Biomedical Career Development, nominated Amy for the award, saying Amy is “shaping the foundational scientific understanding of future communicators – both conceptual knowledge as well as the process of science and ability to critically evaluate evidence.” The Emerson Science Communication Collaborative “pairs undergraduate students interested in science communication with local early career scientists in a semester-long series of exchanges to further the training and skills of both audiences. Scientists are provided a rare opportunity early in their careers to practice media skills and effective communication with lay audiences in a non-threatening, low-risk environment that utilizes the expertise of Emerson students. The undergraduates come to know the person behind the scientist, helping to dispel popular misconceptions about the process of science and providing more accurate, nuanced, and diverse portraits of who does science. Culminating projects range from children’s books to public service announcements to a musical composition based upon the genetic sequence of a strain of H1N1 flu virus.”
Seeking to effect national change, Amy initiated a collaboration with the UK-based nonprofit, Sense About Science, to help establish their “Ask for Evidence” campaign in the US. Thompson states, “as the name suggests, this campaign encourages everyone to question claims in politics, media, and advertising. Amy’s ingenuity and commitment was vital to providing the foundation for continued national programming following the public launch of the US campaign in February 2013. Briefly, Amy secured funding from a Consumer Awareness Project Grant at Emerson to: 1) conduct a public survey exploring the public relationship with evidence; 2) develop a US campaign website with resources for how to ask, how to evaluate evidence (including a platform to connect with local scientists), and examples of participant experiences; 3) host a media training workshop for future scientists and communicators; 4) carry-out program evaluation, including Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) questionnaires (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities, 2012).”
Amy’s passion for science communication has led her to not only play an active role in the Boston area science outreach community, but to be a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and Voice of Young Science USA. Her passion for science education and outreach stems back to well before her faculty position at Emerson. For more than a decade, Amy has been involved in the advancement of the public’s understanding of science — directing the Harvard graduate student organization Science in the News, developing exhibits at the Museum of Science Boston, and playing an important role in discussions of the implications of new genetic technologies with the Genetics and Society Working Group.
Dr. Murray attended the COPUS 2014 Invitational from Sep 18-21 in New Mexico, and took part in two days of science outreach networking and educational events. She received the award while at the unconference. Amy said, “this award is really gratifying as recognition of work that isn’t necessarily part of the job description for typical academic scientists and isn’t is always valued explicitly in the scientific community. It is also an incredible honor because it is coming from a community of people that, themselves, have done such amazing, and often unrecognized, work in science outreach and because I’ve learned what a special individual and leader Paul Shin was to this community.”
Amy also expressed “gratitude to the Office of Research and Creative Scholarship at Emerson for helping to identify and secure funding opportunities, including the Consumer Awareness Project fund, to support development and broader expansion of this work.”
Co-founder of COPUS, Judy Scotchmoor said, “The Paul Shin award is very special to us at COPUS. In the short time that we knew Paul, we were captivated by his energy and determination to make a difference in the world. The nominees for this year’s award were fantastic, but Amy made an impression on us. Her tireless enthusiasm and commitment to sharing science is exactly what we aspire to recognize through this award.”