Science isn’t just for the scientists. At the most basic level, I think we’re obligated to tell non-scientists about our work, because they’re paying our salaries! But of course that’s not why I feel strongly about outreach. It’s important because science is a powerful tool that any of us can use to understand the complexities of our world. Because science is a way of communing with nature, unveiling the secrets of the Universe and placing ourselves within the context of the vast cosmos. Because science is critical to our survival as a species and for the protection of the precious natural world. And because it’s essential we inspire the next generation of scientists to follow in our footsteps and pick up where we leave off.
Strangely enough, I started my career in science as a science communicator before I had any real scientific credentials. (I felt a bit funny about that, if you want to know the truth, but I worked hard to make sure I never gave people bad information). My first foray into outreach was through my blog, Sagan’s Brain, in which I discussed important and sometimes controversial topics in science: evolution, climate change, and space exploration. I found I had a real knack for explaining science in a way that anyone could understand — it doesn’t have to be complicated! — and that’s when I started to think seriously about going into science education.
As I pursued my degree in physics at Hunter, worked on my PhD at Columbia, and now as a postdoc in Taipei, I’ve remained committed to outreach. In addition to a number of public lectures and one-off outreach opportunities, for two years I was a co-host of the New York City chapter of Astronomy on Tap. That was tons of fun, so when I moved to Taipei, I immediately joined the Astronomy on Tap Taipei team, and I’ve been doing that ever since. It’s a special kind of challenge doing this in a city where English is not the first language. But I still think it’s important, and we have a lot of fun, too.
I was also a regular contributor to Universe Today‘s youtube show and podcast, the Weekly Space Hangout, hosted by Fraser Cain.
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Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be doing the work I’m doing today without the work of Carl Sagan. His books, and the seminal series Cosmos, really changed my life. I developed a deep reverence for the Universe, and felt for the first time that this was something I could really do. It’s my honor to try and give that same experience to others.
Below are a few videos I’ve recorded for the Cool Worlds channel. You can also check out the media page for a playlist of YouTube videos featuring my outreach work.