Giving faces to science: Northwestern researchers visit the Museum of Science and Industry

Paige Edmiston
May 18, 2017

Northwestern scientists and engineers visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) earlier this month to share their research with the public. The researchers all placed a winning image in Science in Society’s 2016 Scientific Images Contest.

The exhibition at MSI was the most recent stop on the winning images’ year-long tour of Chicago and Evanston. The collection of images travel to public spaces like museums, galleries, schools, and libraries, building bridges between Northwestern scientists and the public along the way. At each venue, guests have the opportunity to view the winning images and learn about current scientific discoveries coming out of Northwestern labs – from the very researchers making the discoveries!

“Guests, staff, and volunteers were thrilled to view the scientific images and engage with the researchers,” said Mandy Bobrow, special programs coordinator at the MSI. “The scientists were welcoming and engaging, which can help break down barriers and make science accessible to museum guests.”

The Scientific Images Contest exhibition was at MSI throughout the first week of May.  On school days, scientists hosted Jr Science Cafes for elementary and middle school classes on field trips. Students from across Illinois learned firsthand about the scientists’ research through fun, hands-on experiments, developed in partnership with science education experts at Science in Society.   

On Saturday, May 6, the winning scientists also shared their images with children and adults visiting the museum. The images introduced visitors to cutting-edge science and, in some cases, to scientific disciplines they had not previously known existed. 

A group of teenagers were thrilled to discover there are real careers which involve doing “cool things” like 3D-printing the human spine – careers like Adam Jakus’. Adam is a materials scientist and engineer in the McCormick School of Engineering. His photograph of 3D printed, hyperelastic bone material finished in 2nd place in the Scientific Images Contest and brought his work to life for the teens. “Their excitement at the possibility of pursuing science and engineering [like this] in the future was clearly visible,” said Adam.

The Scientific Images Contest exhibitions give researchers like Adam a platform to share their wonder, delight, and excitement about science with those outside the traditional scientific community. These exhibitions are also an opportunity for non-researchers, and children in particular, to gain a new understanding of what it means – and looks like – to be a scientist.

“Putting a face to science can often help change traditional perceptions of science and scientists,” said MSI’s Mandy Bobrow, reflecting on why it is important to connect scientists with the public through programs like the Scientific Images Contest tour.

Applied mathematician Karna Gowda, whose image “A Slow March Through the Desert” finished in 4th place, agreed. “It is important for the public to know that many people doing science are young and diverse, and also that they are not stereotypical Albert Einstein-type geniuses.”

Karna continued, “This is especially important for children, who may not ever have envisioned themselves as future scientists. Meeting a scientist who is down to earth and shares their background in some way can make a big difference in what they see as possible for themselves.”

View and learn more about the 2016 winning images and scientists.

The 2017 Scientific Images Contest is currently open for submissions from Northwestern researchers. Learn more and submit your image by the July 5 deadline. 

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