Shane Bergin is honored with the 2014 AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science for his commitment and demonstrated impact to engaging the public in science through innovative methods that bring science into the daily lives of his local community.
In particular, Bergin was recognized for spearheading a public-engagement campaign on Dublin's rapid-transit system (the DART) — an effort to generate interest in science and science careers. His "DARTofPhysics" project sought to change the perception of physics in Ireland by prompting commuters to ponder intriguing questions about physical phenomena. Posters on train cars asked, for example, how many leaves fall in Dublin every autumn, and how gravitation draws people together.
After having their curiosity "zapped," many Dubliners responded by logging onto a website featuring fun science content, profiles of physicists, and more. For his campaign, Bergin enlisted the support of some 200 undergraduate physics students, 50 Ph.D. candidates, and 50 staff members from the physics and education departments of Trinity College Dublin. The team leveraged both social and traditional media to help raise awareness of the importance of physics, and science in general.
Though still at an early stage of his career, Bergin has developed many other educational and communication-focused activities, including the Trinity College Pitch Drop. In 2013, he used a video camera to capture a rare physical event: a drop of pitch (tar) falling from an antique funnel. The resulting video, which dramatically illustrates the effects of viscosity, has been viewed more than 2 million times.
Bergin earned his Ph.D. in physics from Trinity College Dublin, where he has worked as a senior research fellow since 2012. From 2009 until 2012, he served as the Marie Curie Fellow in chemistry at Imperial College London, and earlier, he held lecturer and researcher-in-residence/postdoctoral roles at Trinity and at Intel Ireland. He has remained focused on communicating science and teaching undergraduate and post-graduate students in physics, engineering, and other STEM fields. Bergin's research has explored nanomaterials as well as innovations in STEM education, and he has so far published two-dozen scholarly articles encompassing both areas.
2014 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science Finalists
- Donna-Mareè Cawthorn, Stellenbosch University
- Kevin Charles Fraser, University of Manitoba at Winnipeg
- Julie Godbout, Natural Resources Canada
- Gregory Goldsmith, Paul Scherrer Institute
- Ronald Hunter Jr., United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Adria LeBoeuf, University of Lausanne
- Katherine Mack, University of Melbourne
- Joana Alves Moscoso, Imperial College London
- Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, University of Durham
AAAS’s First Endowed Award
As issues at the interface of science and society—from disease research to global climate change, evolution, human embryonic stem cell research, neuroscience, and others—take on increasing importance, the Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science seeks to encourage efforts to promote interactive dialogue between scientists and non-scientific, public audiences. By highlighting and celebrating successful examples of public engagement, AAAS and our partners aim to communicate the importance of such efforts and create models for other scientists and engineers.
AAAS is grateful to Bob and Margee Hazen for their vision in initiating this award and for their generous gifts to establish the endowment that funds it. We also wish to acknowledge Bruce and Betty Alberts, Alan and Agnes Leshner, David Evans Shaw, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Noyce Foundation for their leadership support, as well as the many others who made contributions to make this award a reality.