2011 Annual Science Report

VPL at University of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: VPL Scientists' EPO

Project Progress

Over the past year, the VPL team of university faculty, staff, and postdocs; government researchers; graduate students; undergraduates; and community partners have undertaken a wide variety of education and public outreach efforts. Our researchers have given talks to audiences ranging from small gatherings of young women from rural Chiapas, Mexico to anyone with a radio, television, or internet connection – reaching children as young as three and retirees in their eighties.

Similarly, the venues and media for our efforts are highly diverse. VPL scientists have volunteered at school science and career fairs. Graduate students have visited local classrooms and welcomed pre-college students into their labs at the University of Washington. Senior faculty members have taught astrobiology courses to non-science undergraduates and mentored graduate student teaching assistants in the area of teaching astrobiology. And many of our team members have contributed to high-profile events and projects around the country, including visitors’ programs at NASA research centers and the development of popular iPad applications (“Journey to the Exoplanets,” released September 2011).

Highlights from our activities this year include:

(1) A visit to Chief Kanim Middle School (Fall City, WA) to meet with and talk to 120 6th-graders and give a virtual tour of the solar system, using computer aids to “visit” interesting planets and moons.
(Amit Misra – Graduate Student; University of Washington)

(2) Participating in “Science in the Streets” (downtown Mexico City) to give a Spanish-language talk, “Alien Life: The Science Point of View,” to 40 members of the general public.
(Antigona Segura-Peralta – Professor; Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

(3) Going to a local pub as part of the “Science on Tap” (Seattle, WA) series and giving a talk, “A Cornucopia of Worlds: Extrasolar Planets and the Search for Life Beyond Earth,” to approximately 50 members of the general public.
(Ty Robinson – Graduate Student; University of Washington)

(4) Preparing and delivering an “under six minutes” TED Talk titled “Finding Habitable Planets around Other Stars” — available to online: http://www.ted.com/talks/lucianne_walkowicz_finding_planets_around_other_stars.html
(Lucianne Walkowicz – Henry Norris Russell Postdoctoral Fellow; Princeton University)

(5) Partnering with a teacher from Lakewood High School (Arlington, WA) to develop a pre-college astrobiology course and host 30 high school students on the University of Washington campus for a three-hour demonstration of the astrobiology research underway at UW.
(Victoria Meadows – Professor and VPL Principle Investigator; University of Washington)