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Scientific community/Science communication

As part of the Engaging Scientists project, we spoke with a diverse range of practicing scientists and science communicators about engagement activities with religious communities. New profiles released regularly!

Sometimes the research that isn’t most interesting to scientists turns out to be the most important. And Emory University chemistry professor and AAAS 2019-20 Leshner Public Engagement Fellow Bill Wuest is fine with that. His research on soaps and disinfectants, which he says, in terms of “hardcore chemistry, just isn’t that exciting,” has been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wuest was ready to be a resource to the public in part because of the connections and preparation the AAAS fellowship offered him.

Sometimes the research that isn’t most interesting to scientists turns out to be the most important. And Emory University chemistry professor and AAAS 2019-20 Leshner Public Engagement Fellow Bill Wuest is fine with that. His research on soaps and disinfectants, which he says, in terms of “hardcore chemistry, just isn’t that exciting,” has been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wuest was ready to be a resource to the public in part because of the connections and preparation the AAAS fellowship offered him.

This past semester, Leia Stirling’s students at the University of Michigan developed a wide array of outreach activities for K-12 students using wearable sensors that can measure people’s motion similar to a Fitbit or Apple Watch. She asked her students to define the specific age group they were targeting, what learning objectives they were trying to achieve, and how they would assess whether they achieved their outreach goals. Some teams focused on younger kids, developing activities to describe body motions, while other teams focused on older students with topics like the physics of motion or how to represent rotations. One group created a hands-on visualization using a Rubik’s cube to describe rotations around three-dimensional axes.

This past semester, Leia Stirling’s students at the University of Michigan developed a wide array of outreach activities for K-12 students using wearable sensors that can measure people’s motion similar to a Fitbit or Apple Watch. She asked her students to define the specific age group they were targeting, what learning objectives they were trying to achieve, and how they would assess whether they achieved their outreach goals. Some teams focused on younger kids, developing activities to describe body motions, while other teams focused on older students with topics like the physics of motion or how to represent rotations. One group created a hands-on visualization using a Rubik’s cube to describe rotations around three-dimensional axes.

At the AAAS EPI Center’s request, computer scientists and election experts met with Delaware’s State Election Commissioner Anthony Albence to discuss concerns related to the insecurity of the electronic systems being used for absentee voting.

Christopher Lynn didn’t start out his career in anthropology intending to study tattooing. But in 2016 when his first study on tattooing and possible positive effects on immune systems went viral, he realized there was a lot of public interest in “the science under the hood of tattooing.” Lynn says that “public engagement has built interest in the research that I do… and where their [the public’s] interests lie informs how I do research and my instincts about teaching and what appeals to people.”

Christopher Lynn didn’t start out his career in anthropology intending to study tattooing. But in 2016 when his first study on tattooing and possible positive effects on immune systems went viral, he realized there was a lot of public interest in “the science under the hood of tattooing.” Lynn says that “public engagement has built interest in the research that I do… and where their [the public’s] interests lie informs how I do research and my instincts about teaching and what appeals to people.”

Samira Kiani’s interest in art and storytelling began at a young age, when she was growing up in Iran. After starting her own lab at Arizona State University working on CRISPR gene editing technology, she saw an opportunity to connect science with these interests. There were “all these serious ethical debates, and I thought, ‘What if I made a film about this?’” Kiani says, a 2019-20 AAAS Leshner Public Engagement Fellow. Three years later, she is close to that goal, and has learned a lot about the challenges of filmmaking. Despite it being a “second full-time job,” she loves it, and her institutions (she is now an associate professor in the department of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) have been very supportive.

Samira Kiani’s interest in art and storytelling began at a young age, when she was growing up in Iran. After starting her own lab at Arizona State University working on CRISPR gene editing technology, she saw an opportunity to connect science with these interests. There were “all these serious ethical debates, and I thought, ‘What if I made a film about this?’” Kiani says, a 2019-20 AAAS Leshner Public Engagement Fellow. Three years later, she is close to that goal, and has learned a lot about the challenges of filmmaking. Despite it being a “second full-time job,” she loves it, and her institutions (she is now an associate professor in the department of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) have been very supportive.