Public science

I greatly respect those who can tell the public about their profession and convey their passion about their field. I believe it is especially important for scientists to do so. As a creative endeavor, science can appeal to a person's imagination and curiosity, but it is too frequently portrayed as a dry compendium of facts, making it unappealing to many people. Unlike most creative fields, science draws heavily from public funds and has great impacts on the planet. Because of this, scientists have an important responsibility to make their efforts comprehensible to the public. I also believe that the public wants to learn about discoveries and enjoys taking part in the process of discovery. I want to do my part to meet our responsibility, to help satisfy the public's desire to learn. I have been involved in a number of activities to present science to different parts of our communities. Below is a list of those activities with links to further information about them or to related sites.

"Magnficient Microbes" Kids program

In July 2014 I held the first “Magnificent Microbes” kids summer microbiology program. The 2014 program was the first time that a microbiology module was offered through the UConn “Kids are Scientists and Engineers” (KASET) program. Click here to see photos and learn more about the program.

Local Radio Appearances

I appear periodically on the local radio program "Let's Talk About It," on WILI-AM in Willimantic, Connecticut. This show is hosted by Susan Johnson and Dennis O'Brien and typically features conversations with local guests about political topics. I have returned several times since 2005 speaking about subjects ranging from stem cell research to global warming. My conversations have covered the science behind topical subjects and how that science informs policy debates.

WILI-AM; Let's Talk About It

MCB Notes

I write a newsletter called MCB Notes describing the research and awards of students and faculty in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UConn. For past issues of MCB Notes, click here.

Science Chautauqua

I worked with Dr. Mark Peczuh (Chemistry) and Prof. Kristin Wold (Dramatic Arts) on a "Science Chautauqua" series of events as part of the international Year of Science 2009 program. We worked with members of the university and local arts communities to present selections from literature and theater as science/arts coffeehouses. Some events incorporated theatrical readings or vignettes along with discussions of science. This unique combination of fields appealed to a new audience, allowing them to appreciate the contributions of the arts and sciences to scientific discourse.

UConn Year of Science 2009 activities

Mark Twain and H. W. Conn

In 1905 Mark Twain began writing a story he called “3,000 Years Among the Microbes.”  He never finished the story, but he told his publisher “I am deep in a new book which I enjoy more than I have enjoyed any other for twenty years and I hope it will take me the entire summer to write it.”  His story created a world of microbes who called themselves Sooflaskies.  To imagine this world, Twain turned to a popular science book of his day, “The Story of Germ Life.”  This book was published in 1898 by Herbert W. Conn, a professor of Biology at Wesleyan University.  H. W. Conn was also at the time in charge of bacteriological research at the Storrs School Agricultural Experiment Station on the campus of the Storrs Agricultural School (now the University of Connecticut).  In December 2010 I worked with freshmen Honors students on an exhibit about the convergence of these two men in Twain’s work.  This exhibit was displayed in the Homer Babbidge Library at UConn.  The exhibit included examples of Conn’s books (including “The Story of Germ Life”), quotes from Mark Twain, examples of Conn’s dairy microbiology research reports, descriptions of the lives of two men, and slides with photographs and newspaper clippings from their times.  Photos of the exhibit as well as a collection of slides shown at the exhibit can be seen at the link below.  Also at that page you will find a link to several pdf files of Conn’s books and articles written about Conn.

Mark Twain and H. W. Conn exhibit

Academic Minute podcasts

I have recorded several installments of WAMC Northeast Public Radio’s “The Academic Minute” podcasts. These were about horizontal gene transfer, biohydrogen production by Thermotoga species, our Science Chautauqua activities, glowing lobsters in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," and methane bubbles in ponds.

WAMC The Academic Minute

BioBlitz 2007

In June 2007 I worked with colleagues from our Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology on the Connecticut BioBlitz, an event in which middle school children and adults work alongside scientists to identify as many plant and animal species as they can in a 24-hour period within a local area. Typically a few thousand species are found and identified. My participation was the first for a microbiologist in the Connecticut program and only the second time in the nation that microorganisms were part of a BioBlitz search. This was the first time that new molecular methods for microbe identification were used. We sequenced short stretches of DNA from environmental samples using a technique called pryosequencing. 454 Life Sciences, a Connecticut firm, graciously donated this service for this project. Colleagues at the Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution at the Marine Biological Laboratory also donated time and effort to helping us out. UConn graduate student assistants and I identified 40,877 bacterial and archaeal species, by far the largest number of species ever identified in a US BioBlitz.

2007 Connecticut BioBlitz