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, and now as I’m working on my PhD at Columbia, I’ve become ever more committed to outreach. I’ve recorded several outreach videos for David’s remarkably successful Cool Worlds channel on YouTube. I give public lectures every chance I get, no matter how large or small the audience. And most recently I’ve become a co-host for the New York City chapter of Astronomy on Tap. It’s tons of fun! And it feels great getting folks excited about space.
Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be here 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.
Here’s a few videos I’ve recorded for the Cool Worlds channel.