The Civic Scientist

I think I love a challenge but in truth I hate failing, and will usually not undertake a task unless I think I have a good shot at excelling at it. That may be the reason why when my friend and former neighbor gg suggested I write a guest blog entry on his site, I said NO WAY! What if everyone thought I was boring or worse…stupid! I definitely have not mastered correct punctuation and grammar (gg, will you proof read this for me?) Well, maybe my friend gg is the brave one for letting me post my first ever blog post on his site. I changed my mind about the entry a few weeks back when I was at the Council for Chemical Research annual conference in St. Louis, and heard a most impressive talk by Bill Hammack, Professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Illinois-Urbana, entitled “How should chemical scientists and engineers talk to the public?” Bill Hammack is widely known for his pieces on public radio http://www.engineerguy.com/ Interestingly, Bill points out when discussing demographics “If you are over 40, you might well listen to public radio, under 40 almost no chance!” I do not listen to public radio and had never heard of Bill Hammack, so you can guess what age group I belong to.

One component of Bill’s talk was the idea of the “Civic Scientist”. Bill went on to say that the term was coined by Neal Lane the former director of NSF, when referring to researchers that made it their mission to reach out to the public, which he argued is essential to continued public support of science. What really caught my attention was the suggestion that we as a new generation of scientists have an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to the public because of the internet. According to Hammack, You Tube gets 2.5 million hits a day! That is when it all made sense to me why my friend gg spent so much time posting blog entries on the internet. In an effort to try and live up to the concept of the Civic Scientist, I will begin posting chemistry videos on You Tube. So look out for our first attempts at utilizing this new media outlet in the next few weeks and any feedback/comments would be greatly appreciated.

A little bit about me, if anyone is interested: I am, as my name implies, a chemist from Cairo. My husband is also a chemist but he is from N. Ireland and we met as postdocs. I think only in America can an Irishman and an Egyptian find themselves at a university in the middle of nowhere and fall in love. I used to be a faculty member at the same institution as gg, but have since left for a new position that is more management than research. I am still active in teaching and science education.

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2 Responses to The Civic Scientist

  1. “What if everyone thought I was boring or worse…stupid! ”

    Don’t worry; in my personal experience, it took at least ten posts before everyone thought I was boring and stupid! 🙂

    Welcome to blogging!

  2. Babs67 aka the fiancee says:

    Welcome Civic Scientist! I for one am excited to hear more from you. It will be a nice change to hear about something other than math (horrors!) or horror fiction. Wait, I think that is redundant.

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