As a postdoctoral fellow I have many opportunities to interact directly with the public to educate them about science. For example, I developed an interactive exhibit, entitled “Discover your own oral microbes”, where individuals can swab their own mouths, wipe the swab on a petri dish, and then take the dish home to see what grows (see photos to right). After people get over the “ick” factor, they are amazed to hear about all the cool things that microbes do for them. Some people are so excited they even share their results on social media so all their friends can see their microbes.
As a graduate student at UC Davis, I received the 2011 Chancellor’s Award for Community and Diversity (photo at left with Chancellor Linda Katehi) in recognition of my many outreach activities. I founded the Picnic Day event “Evolution Demystified” which was attended by roughly 500 community members in its opening year and over 1,000 people in subsequent years. This event showcased the research done in our department and included numerous activities to get children interested in biology. I have since trained younger graduate students to coordinate this event and am happy to see it become an annual tradition. I was also co-founder and co-chair of “Davis Darwin Day 2009” which featured off-campus seminars attended by over 350 members of the general public. Finally, in collaboration with the Yolo County Library, I founded a community-wide book club which brings authors of general science literature to Davis to speak about how scientific issues intersect with their daily lives.
A complete list of my public outreach and service activities can be found on my CV.