Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A social catalyst for science outreach

By Carol Clark

In January, Kristopher Hite moved from Colorado to join Emory as a post-doc in the biology lab of Roger Deal. Hite hit the ground running, fueled by his love of good science communications, along with his passion for science itself.

“If we could get more science educators to teach everyone, and not just the people in their classes, then the world would be a better place,” says Hite, who thinks of the World Wide Web as a virtual classroom.

SciOctopus, the ScienceOnline mascot.
Hite recently attended ScienceOnline, an annual event in Raleigh, North Carolina, that brings together scientists, writers, educators, programmers and others using the Web to change how science is done, taught and communicated.

“You bring what you know to ScienceOnline, and you receive an immense amount in return,” Hite says. He compares it to teachers learning from their students. “The wider the audience of people that you interact with, the more you can potentially learn,” he says.

While at Science Online, he heard about a Twitter event started by Adam Taylor, a high school science teacher in Nashville. Called #scistuchat, it unites high school students and leading scientists for virtual conversations.

Last week, he participated with three other scientists in a #scistuchat about cloning, using his Twitter handle @thorsonofodin. “It was so cool!” he says. “There was an explosion of tweets from high school students from all over the country, asking relevant questions.”

A ScienceOnline talk by Frasier Cain of Universe Today also inspired Hite. Cain explained how the Virtual Star Party was created through Google Hangouts, a free service that facilitates video-conferences that can be live-streamed to the world. Every Sunday, viewers can look through powerful telescopes from points around the globe for stunning live footage of beautiful objects in deep space.

"I had so much fun at ScienceOnline, so many new friends made and ideas hatched," says Hite. Photo by Russ Creech.

“Frasier Cain took the time to sit down with me individually, and taught me how to share what you’re seeing on Google Hangouts,” Hite says. “We have some cool microscopes here in our lab at Emory, and if I can find a few other people from other parts of the world who are interested, I’d like to start a Microscope Hangout.” People who ordinarily would not have access to a science lab could peer through microscopes and hear scientists explain what they are seeing.

Hite and other attendees from Atlanta wanted to keep the conversations going that started at ScienceOnline in Raleigh. He took the lead in launching a local ScienceOnline get-together. The inaugural Atlanta Science TweetUp, #ATLSciTweetUp, will meet from 8 to 11:30 pm on Friday, March 1 at the Thinking Man Tavern in Decatur. Everyone interested in community and collaborations at the intersection of science and the web is welcome.

“I had so much fun at ScienceOnline, so many new friends made and ideas hatched, I just want to help pass that on,” Hite says. “We’re holding it in a pub so it’s casual and organic, people can float in and out. Maybe we’ll even draw in people from the pub who didn’t come there for the science.”

Those that can’t make it in person can follow the conversation on Twitter at #ATLSciTweetUp, or at the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ATLScitweetup.

And check out Hite's photo journal from ScienceOnline at his blog, tompainesghost.com.

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  1. Hi Carol,
    It was so good to meet you at SciO13. Glad to hear that the Emory folks in attendance are taking the scio13 energy and running with it. Wish I were in Atl for the TweetUp; you are almost making me long for my grad school days ;0.

    1. Thanks @Michele! It was great meeting you, too! I hope you will stop by the Emory campus and catch up with us during your next visit to ATL. I love the connections I've made through SciO13 and working at Emory, and I'm looking forward to all the new friends to be made through ATLSciTweetUp!

      Carol Clark
      eSC Editor