John Drazan, a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Pennsylvania’s Human Motion Lab, will receive the 2020 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science, presented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to honor early-career scientists or engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science.
Drazan is being recognized for work that combines research on the development of low-cost sensors that track human biomechanics with accomplishments in public engagement that make science, technology, engineering and mathematics relevant and fun to young people by connecting with an activity many care about: sports.
A varsity basketball player when he completed his undergraduate physics degree at SUNY Geneseo, Drazan was pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute when he teamed up with his former college basketball teammate, John Scott, at 4th Family Inc., an Albany, N.Y.-based nonprofit that offers mentoring and empowerment to local underserved youth. Drazan created a STEM program for the organization, reaching more than 5,000 local youth through after-school and summer programs featuring hands-on activities that connected sports with science.
“John’s approach to public engagement is driven by the conviction that as a scientific community we tend to ‘preach to the choir.’ That is, we gear most of our efforts toward providing programs for students who already have an interest in science and who feel welcome at scientific events,” said nominator Janis Burkhardt, chair of pathology research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.“By contrast, John seeks to reach young people who would otherwise not see math and science as relevant to their lives,” Burkhardt said.