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Science—Coming to a Library Near You

Science—Coming to a Library Near You
Graduate student Emily Rees is among the UT Austin scientists who share their research with the public. Neighborhood Science is a new offering that connects researchers with local libraries. Photo credit: Vivian Abagiu.

Graduate students at UT Austin have been sharing their work with the public at the successful and popular program Science Under the Stars for ten years. Now, with a new offshoot offering called Neighborhood Science, the students, primarily from the top-ranked ecology, evolution and behavior program, are working to connect even more of the Austin community to science by bringing their informative and entertaining talks––on topics ranging from superheroes to singing mice––right into Austin Public Libraries.

Upcoming Neighborhood Science Events:

"How to Get a Date: Story of a Clone" April 25, 7pm at the Twin Oaks Branch

"All About Frogs (and Toads!)" May 14, 7pm at the Howson Branch

"As Quiet as a Mouse? (Not Singing Mice!)" May 16, 7:30pm at the Twin Oaks Branch

Neighborhood Science, in its first year is modeled after Science Under the Stars, a program organized and presented entirely by graduate students in the Department of Integrative Biology, which takes place at the university's Brackenridge Field Laboratory on Lake Austin Boulevard. Neighborhood Science brings some of the same presentations to other parts of the city, currently the Twin Oaks branch in South Austin and Howson branch in West Austin, on Thursday evenings.

"Brackenridge Field Laboratory may be tricky to access for some people," said Anne Chambers, Science Under the Stars co-president and Neighborhood Science lead. "So we thought that the libraries would be a great opportunity to expand the program and try to hit people that maybe wouldn't be able to make it to that location by coming to them."

The talks, made with families in mind, are a way for Austinites of all ages to discover science and meet early-career scientists in training. The smaller venues for Neighborhood Science make it easy for participants to connect to the topics and the presenters.

"I think it is great for the community to be able to learn about the world around them, to explore and be curious," Twin Oaks branch librarian Michelle Beebower said. "At the library, one of our goals is to promote lifelong learning and Neighborhood Science definitely achieves that goal. Our community also gets to sample a bit from the wonderful resources our local university has to offer without traveling to campus."


Emma de Boer-Piedt, a librarian at Howson Library, agrees the program is meeting a growing demand for interesting activities families can engage in together.

"We've gotten wonderful feedback," de Boer-Piedt said. "Everyone has been supportive and impressed by the talks. They have all been really interesting, and you can tell the graduate students have put a lot of effort into making their research accessible to the community.

One parent wrote, 'That was so great! We'll be back every month. Getting kids excited about science from UT grad students is wonderful. I love that it's held outside too.'"

Both librarians and Chambers are looking forward to the program growing in the future.

"It's really important for graduate students especially to learn how to speak about their science to kids or adults or whomever," Chambers said. "I'm hoping that with Neighborhood Science we might draw people in a little bit more that are less likely to seek out science-focused things for them to do with their families or themselves, and I think that's invaluable. Hopefully we can come to them, and they can engage in a different area or learn about science that they never would have thought of before."

Check the UT Austin College of Natural Sciences events calendar, the Science Under the Stars Facebook page and the group's website for more information. The program is also open to future topic suggestions, so direct any ideas to the Facebook page or send an email.

Texans enjoy family-friendly science presentations at Neighborhood Science events, as well as at Science Under the Stars programs, like this one at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory in 2016. Photo credit: Vivian Abagiu.
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Saturday, 20 April 2019

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