Science Education and Outreach

I am involved in multiple science education and outreach efforts at the local, regional and national levels. Several of these are a continuation of work that began before I joined BGSU with the Young Scientist Scientific Interest Group (YSSIG) within the American Crystallographic Association (ACA). I have also initiated projects over the past few years involving groups in the northwest Ohio region. I consider these projects fulfilling and important opportunities to engage and improve science literacy within the wider community. Some of my main efforts are described below.

Science Education and Outreach at the National Level

A long-standing project at the national level has been the so-called ’BlackBoard Sessions’, which are held at the national meetings of the American Crystallographic Association. These sessions are a unique educational opportunity for novice through advanced-intermediate macromolecular X-ray crystallographers created by myself and Ed Collins to combine spoken talks with the hands-on elements of a workshop. Details can be found here. Four BlackBoard Sessions have been held, and a fifth is planned at the 2014 meeting in Albuquerque, NM.

I also collaborate with Eric Montemayor, a colleague from the YSSIG, who has spearheaded a crystallography education and outreach experience for selected high school classrooms local to the national ACA meetings. Eric and I have arranged to have supplies and equipment donated by Hampton Research and Laboratory Product Sales sent to the schools. The teachers are instructed by Skype in how to set up a basic crystallization experiment with their students. The students then visit the lab of a local crystallographer to either collect data on crystals they grew (Boston meeting) or to tour a graphics facility (Hawaii meeting). A limited number of students and their instructors then attended the meeting to present a poster of their experiences. Both groups have repeated this experience for a new crop of students the following years and we are offering support to facilitate its continuation. Eric and I have collected feedback from the students and teachers to help improve the experience and evaluate its impact. We are grateful to our corporate sponsors, Hampton Research and Laboratory Product Sales, as well as Professor Karen Allen and Dr. Jeff Bacon at Boston University and Professor Ho Leung Ng at the University of Hawaii for their continuing dedication to the success of this project!

Recently, I had the privilege attending the recent Opening Ceremonies for the International Year of Crystallography, held at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris, France. I was nominated to serve on a panel of early-career crystallographers to identify and discuss critical issues facing the next generation of scientists in our field.

Regional Impact

One of the most exciting outreach efforts continues to be working with community groups by providing software and device tools we are developing to facilitate their water quality monitoring efforts. You can read more about this on my research page, and also on a website for our project we call GeoGraph.

In the summer of 2013, I served as a science content expert as part of a project at BGSU called iEVOLVE. This project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is coordinated by the Northwest Ohio Center for Excellence in STEM Education (NWO) and provides professional development for teachers to improve student performance in science through adoption of a "citizen science" model. Multiple school districts in the region participate in the project.

Local Outreach and Service

I participate in a variety of local outreach efforts, including serving as a judge in a science fair for local high school students, inviting AP Chemistry students from a nearby high school to spend a 'day of investigation' in my research lab and even visiting a pre-kindergarten class to talk about 'What color is a dinosaur?' (following recent headlines of fossilized hadrosaur skin).