When I’m not teaching class, pondering the cosmos, or trying to figure out why students struggle so much with learning to write functions(!), I work to promote inclusivity within STEM communities and make science more accessible to the general public.
Working toward more equitable and inclusive STEM communities
As I’ve moved through my career in astrophysics and computational science while being embedded in academia, I’ve become more and more aware of the barriers that exist for members of marginalized groups when they try to achieve many of the same things that my privilege as a white, cisgender man has helped me to accomplish. While I have worked hard to get where I am today, I have still progressed through a system that was designed with people like me in mind and often willfully inhibits the success of those not like me. Motivated by this increased awareness, I’ve worked to use my position of privilege to promote equity and inclusion within the scientific communities I am a part.
Most recently, I have had worked to increase the cultural awareness of others by acquiring funding for, organizing, and taking part in a “train-the-trainers” program for the College of Natural Science (NatSci) at MSU. Through this program, we have trained 12 members of the NatSci community to lead cultural competency workshops for faculty, staff, students, and administrators within the college. As of January 2020, we have trained over 100 members of the NatSci community and hope to train another 100 or so by the summer of 2020.
Learning more about the ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the College of Nature Science and if you have questions about the cultural competency trainings being offered by the college, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Astronomy on Tap: science at a bar near you!
First, the sales pitch: “Astronomy is even better with beer — come learn how scientists explore the universe at a bar near you! This FREE event features accessible, engaging science presentations on topics ranging from planets to black holes to the beginning of the Universe. Presenters are from local research and educational institutions like Michigan State University. We will have a trivia game to test your astronomy knowledge and space-themed raffle prizes! There will also be lots of time to ask questions and interact with the presenters and other scientists who tag along for the beer.”
Now, the backstory: Back in 2015, I decided that I would combine two of my passions, drinking craft beer and talking about astronomy. Thanks to an unplanned extra-long layover in the Los Angeles airport in March of 2015, I got to pick the brain of Emily Rice, the primary orgnizer for Astronomy on Tap Headquarters based in NYC. At the time there were only a handle of Astronomy on Tap events happening around the country and as I learned about how the events worked and the motivation behind them, I decided that I absolutely had to bring this program to the greater Lansing area. The unique part about Astronomy on Tap is that it’s outreach targeted at adults (who often have limited education opportunities that don’t require tuition dollars) in a low-stakes, relaxed environment (a bar!).
Each of our Lansing events involve two 15-minute TED-style talks given by local (or visiting) astronomers and astrophysicists on astronomy topics of interest. We also generate trivia questions based on the topics of the evening so that the audience can test their new-found knowledge and enter to win fun astronomy-themed raffles. At the end of the night, we feature MSU scientists (grad students, postdocs, and faculty) by holding an open Q&A sessions where audience members get to ask their burning astronomy questions and have them answered by the experts.