Nice to Meet You!

The path of some scientists is to do science. The path of other scientists is to help inspire people to see the beauty in science. I realized through working with the National Center for Science Education’s Science Booster Club that I am meant to be part of the latter group. And now I am. My name is Claire Adrian-Tucci and I am really excited to be working as the Program Coordinator for NCSE.

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing but respect and admiration for lab scientists.

I recently finished my master’s degree in biology and epidemiology at the University of Iowa. I loved learning how to be a scientist—how to design an experiment to test a new hypothesis as well as how to analyze the data. That said, I guess I’m just not cut out to be a molecular biologist. You know Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), the beloved technique that allows us to amplify small pieces of DNA? I call it a Pain in Claire’s Rear End. And while my science was solid, I’m pretty sure that my only real laboratory accomplishment was naming the latest machine “R2-Insitu.” Yeah, it’s a Star Wars pun.

I jumped on the booster club train slowly. At first, my data collection wasn’t going too well and I needed to up my game. My friends, Kyle, Laura, and Elizabeth, had already signed up to be interns that summer. It was clear within a few weeks that they were having fun and having a meaningful impact in the community. They needed help at the farmer’s market, their big event for summer 2015, so I volunteered to help teach about climate change.

Once I saw it in action I was instantly enamored with the concept of a science booster club. At the farmer’s market, we met people of all ages and walks of life, who were able to stand in a small greenhouse and see the temperature gauge rise with their own eyes as they exhaled. Within just a few minutes inside that derpy plastic contraption, they were able to experience change. Kyle said, “Now imagine this same thing happening to our planet.”

The imaginary light bulbs above people's heads lit up. They started to understand the greenhouse effect.

The light bulb above my head lit up too. I observed the power of a grassroots science effort. I signed up to become an intern with the Booster Club for the fall semester. It was the best decision I made in graduate school.

Over the next year, I spent my free time getting out into the community providing people access to science activities. I learned very quickly the power of being able to share the knowledge I had acquired from my science background. As a graduate student, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that most people find science to be a daunting black box that they closed many years ago. But when I showed up at local events and introduced myself as a scientist, and presented materials in an accessible way, people weren’t turned off; they were intrigued. At one demonstration, an adult pointed to a crawling shrimp in a bowl and said, “I had no idea those were real animals. I have only ever seen those on my dinner plate.”

I had this warm fuzzy feeling inside. I finished packing up the demonstration with Laura and Kyle and proceeded to go back to the lab. I had “real” science to finish. And when I got back to the lab, I wished I was back out in the world, talking to people about science.

After a year of working with the booster clubs in Iowa City, we have offered hands-on activities to 50,000 participants and raised enough money to fund teacher grants that have an impact on 3,000 students per year.  When working with the science booster clubs, I never had to wonder if I was positively impacting anyone. The feedback was immediate and extremely positive.

I am so excited to join the NCSE team as the program coordinator for NCSEteach, our 6,000-member teacher network, and Scientist in the Classroom, our matching program that enables scientists to visit local classrooms to discuss climate change or evolution.

I am so excited to see how our scientists and teachers work together to give students a real understanding of what it means to be a scientist. Scientists are going to be having their first in-class meetings within the next few weeks. I don’t know about you, but I can barely wait to hear all about it.

If you are a current graduate student and are interested in getting involved, I suggest our free one-year membership. There will be some great give-aways for you, too, so sign up here! Please also consider applying to be a Scientist in the Classroom next spring.

Joining NCSE is enabling me to get to do what I love doing, working on ways to enable a quality education for all.

I’ll be contributing to the blog regularly to keep you up to date on the progress of NCSEteach and Scientist in the Classroom. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions at adrian-tucci@ncse.com