Around the Pier: Scripps Students, Faculty and Alums at the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering


More than 75,000 kids, parents, teachers, industry leaders and community members are turning out this week for the Biocom Institute Festival of Science and Engineering in San Diego. A ten-day educational experience, the event inspires the next generation of STEM leaders.

Among this group of STEM ambassadors were Scripps faculty, students, and alumni at the festival’s opening EXPO DAY. Here, they joined more than 130 local businesses, corporations, and organizations providing interactive science, technology, engineering and math exhibits and activities to budding K-12 science lovers. Scripps members gave presentations about their research and engaged directly with children in hands-on learning experiences.

We sat down with some of the Scripps students and faculty to learn more about why they chose to participate in the event and be civically active with their research.

Angela Zoumplis, PhD student in Marine Biology
I was lucky enough to have been invited to speak at the festival by Jeane Wong, founder of the League of Extraordinary Scientists. I see it as a great opportunity to expand the audience of my research field beyond the scientific community. This event reaches out locally and promotes a valuable interaction with the public that’s not always available on such a large scale. Also, these types of events always puts the research you’re doing into perspective! I had to sit down and ask myself “why is my research important?”, “why is it relevant to the public?”, and “am I presenting this in a way that will inspire the next generation of scientists?” As always, it’s very exciting to tell the tales of microbial life in the Antarctic Dry Valleys!

Jennifer Le, PhD student in Biological Oceanography
This festival is so important for the community because not only does it get kids interested in science, but it shows them that they can become a scientist with hands-on activities and real-life scientists who are just like them: big kids who let their curiosity roam free. It's such an astonishing moment to watch someone's eyes light up in the face of a deep-sea fish or strawberry DNA they've extracted themselves, and serves as inspiration for both future and current scientists. While interacting with the next-generation of scientists is always the highlight, some parents find as much joy in the activities as their kids.

Greg Rouse, Professor in the Marine Biology Research Division
I participated in order to share stories of ocean discovery with our younger citizens. I wanted them to know that there is still much to be done and that the deep sea presents many opportunities for future discovery.

Andy Allen, Associate Professor in the Integrative Oceanography Division  
Through my involvement with the League of Extraordinary Scientists and Engineers, I have given a fireside chat at the Science Festival for the past three years. It is inspiring to see the high level of interest in our science on plankton biodiversity, the role of plankton in the global carbon cycle, and recent developments in genomics for studying phytoplankton and applied algal biotechnology. I am grateful for the opportunity and challenge of sharing our science directly with the public. This year we also had the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) Discover Genomics Bus at the festival where we had revolving hands on modules on DNA extraction from strawberries and live plankton imaging on microscopes. We were all appreciative and excited about the opportunity to interact with kids and adults about our science. It was a lot of fun!   

Alyssa Griffin, PhD student in Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry 
Scripps has been and always will be a part of the greater San Diego community. So many children in our area don't have access to quality science education and many are never told that pursuing a career in science is something that they, or anyone, can do. I think it's our duty as scientists to share our knowledge and experiences with all people so that they can think more critically about the world around them and to expose the younger generation to possible paths in science. The festival is a great way to break down those barriers for children and adults alike. As a woman and a minority, I'm particularly invested in changing the face of science so that children have a visible example of someone like them succeeding in (and enjoying!) science.

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