Science Café course now offered by Biology Department

Analia Fiestas / Staff Writer

Attempting to attract non-science majors to the world of science, the Biology Department will now be offering a Science Café course.

Headed by Ph.D. candidate Anya Goldina, this course is part of a new program within the Biology Department called “Quantifying Biology In the Classroom.”

“The QBIC takes multiple fields, such as biology, chemistry, physics, English and math, integrating them so that students can see how all these fields connect and have relevance to each other,” said Goldina.

Goldina feels that science is becoming more specialized with certain scientific terms that utilize complex interpretations of published findings. Scientific findings that have strong impacts on governmental policies, such as healthcare and energy bills, are often too difficult to interpret by the public. These findings can easily be misinterpreted, and the University’s Biology Department hopes that this new course can ease this confusion.

“Science Cafés” have been implemented in many countries such as England, Scotland, United States, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, New Zealand, Japan, Zambia and the Philippines.

“Science Café aims to lessen the gap in the public’s understanding of science and scientific research, and develop a culture of wanting to engage the non-scientist in talking about science with passion,” said Goldina.

As part of the QBIC program at the University, Dr. Ophelia Weeks and Dr. Martin Tracey, both professors in the Department of Biological Science, have developed a Science Café course.

“Dr. Ophelia Weeks was thinking of ways that she could challenge the science-major seniors to do something different and exciting with the material that they had been learning through their college career. This is how she came up with the Science Café idea,” said Goldina.

As part of the courses, students create events geared at diverse, non-scientist audiences, to discuss various science topics in a fun, non-threatening manner.

“The course is new and it can still grow in many different ways. Right now we, students, are like guinea pigs. The persons in charge are trying a lot of different things with us to see what works best,” said senior and Biology major, Jasmin Qyyum.

During the first three years of the QBIC program, biology majors learn to read and interpret research articles, while discussing scientifically complex ideas using information learned in their science, math and lab courses. In their final year, seniors practice communicating scientifically complex concepts in an engaging, easy-to-understand manner to non-scientists.

“Scientific texts are usually very difficult for a non-scientist to comprehend. Sometimes even professors or graduate students need to reread the information to be able to understand it. This is exactly why the Science Café is so beneficial to everyone,” said Goldina.

This year, for example, seniors from the Science Café course have already scheduled three meetings. The meetings are open to the public and the audiences can range from elementary children to college students.

Science Cafes, as emphasized by Goldina, are primarily student organizations.

“The idea behind this class is for students to run it. The students decide what types of events they would like to hold, what topics they are interested in, and how they would like to obtain the public’s attention. I’m technically just there to facilitate the process, and help them with whatever they need,” said Goldina.

Goldina has found the course to already be a success at the University.

“We are having a lot of fun. We’re learning as we’re going and it’s not easy, but it is an amazing experience. As a teaching assistant, you picture things the way they should occur in the classroom, but sometimes things do not carry out the way you pictured them, and that is okay. We learn each and every day,” said Goldina.

Not only are the creators and teaching assistants of this course content with the result, but so are the students.

“I really like the course because it gives us a chance to apply everything we have learned throughout our four years in school. It also teaches us how to communicate in a simple way with the public about scientific matters,” said senior and Biology major, Giselle Perez.

All those involved are hoping that the Science Cafes continue to successfully grow.

“This is their baby. This is what they’re responsible for. Through these Science Cafes, they’re living their own footprint on the world around them,” said Goldina.

 

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