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A kid stands in the water holding wildlife on the Oregon coast

Building bridges: College of Science outreach creates pathways to science literacy and inclusion

By Hannah Ashton

Students from the Jamie Cornelius Lab helped plan Wild about Wildlife, a three-day summer camp for middle school students where they learned about biological science through experiences and field excursions to Hatfield Marine Science Center and the Chintimini Wildlife Center. Photo by Victoria Quennessen.

The College of Science is committed to community service and fostering science literacy. Our recently launched Strategic Plan prioritizes impactful contributions at local, national and global levels. Across our seven departments, we are actively implementing outreach initiatives that align with our mission of engagement and societal impact. Last year, the College actively supported community-focused events, such as Discovery Days, Juntos Family Day and many others.

Discovery Days is held twice a year as an opportunity to engage with local elementary school kids for a hands-on STEM fair experience. This event gathered more than 1,500 students and 300 OSU students, faculty and staff volunteers. In collaboration with Open Campus, Juntos Family Day provided Latinx students and their families with a dynamic college exploration experience in spring 2023.

Students gather around a table.

Students participating in Discovery Days gather around a table for a fun hands-on STEM activity.

Our departments also prioritize creating access to science education and research, fostering community relationships and developing needed services.

Microbiology outreach makes science more colorful

The College of Science’s microbiology department created the Pernot Microbiology Camp to draw more local students from BIPOC, LGBTQ+, low-income and other diverse backgrounds to the study of microbiology. Faculty in the department also offered a session on Microbiology for the Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering and Math Club for both 5th grade and high school students. Microbiologist Jerri Bartholomew created the Art-Sci collaborative to build a bridge between art and science. This involves public galleries showcasing student work and local artists. The department also hosted internationally acclaimed microbiologist Jo Handelsman for the inaugural Berg Lecture. Open to the public, this lecture drew community members, students and faculty.

High school students work on fish rubs.

High school students work on fish rubs during the Pernot Microbiology Camp.

Statistics collaborates with Oregonians

The statistics department participated in the Statewide Crop Load Project annual meeting to discuss results with vineyard managers and wine producers in Oregon. Faculty also co-led a workshop in Lincoln County for the Pandemic Resilient Cities project to engage local public health, city officials, school representatives and more to begin a co-creation process for a National Science Foundation proposal. They discussed the needs of the county and priorities concerning future pandemic preparedness.

Physics brings science to high-school students

The physics department held lab tours for Corvallis High School students and created a Zoom version for Madras High School. Several faculty members also did presentations for the Corvallis High School Science Club. The department has a new outreach coordinator that will formally start in fall 2023.

Mathematics outreach seeks to break down common stereotypes

Members from the mathematics department organized the 2023 Math For All satellite conference. This event is an open and friendly space for people to gather and talk about mathematics, math education and how it relates to diversity, justice and equity. Professor Nathan Gibson organized a series of weekly Math Circle meetings for Franklin Elementary students. These circles aim to make mathematics fun, interesting, accessible and inclusive. The Association of Women in Mathematics OSU chapter also participated in many outreach events, including Discovering the Scientist Within, which aims to spark interest in science in young girls. The department also held its 38th annual Lonseth Lecture and invited alumna Corina Constantinescu (Ph.D. ’06) to talk about the “Mathematics of Inclusive Insurance.”

A group of individuals stand on a staircase for a photo during a mathematics conference.

Math for All participants pose for a group shot.

Integrative Biology shares research far and wide

The integrative biology department held its annual Doc Storm Lecture that drew more than 100 people to the LaSells Stewart Center. The Weis Lab participated in Meet a Scientist at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to educate visitors of all ages about the study of cnidarian-algal symbiosis and the threat of climate change on coral reefs. The lab also participated in OMSI After Dark. Students from the Cornelius Lab partnered with students from the College of Agricultural Sciences to plan Wild about Wildlife, a three-day summer camp for middle school students where they learned about biological science through experiences and field excursions to Hatfield Marine Science Center and the Chintimini Wildlife Center. In June, the department held its annual Robert M. Storm Distinguished Lecture. This year speaker George James Kenagy, Professor of Biology and Curator of Mammals, Emeritus with the University of Washington, spoke about "Survival in the Desert: Coping with Heat, Aridity, and Scarce Resources."

Students listen to a talk about birds.

Students in the Wild about Wildlife camp visit the Chintimini Wildlife Center.

Chemistry outreach helps high-school students find their passion

The chemistry department held the fifth annual Juntos Chemistry Overnight Camp in June. Twenty Latino high school students attended the camp from all over Oregon. The students participated in workshops and got an authentic taste of the OSU college experience. The department also held four lab tours for high school AP science students. Chemistry professor Marilyn Mackiewicz created a new week-long workshop called Ignite inSTEM designed to help students discover the wonders of designing nanomaterials.

A group of students in white lab coats pose for a picture.

High-school students in the Juntos Chemistry Overnight Camp pose for a photo.

Biochemistry and Biophysics outreach has a national impact

The biochemistry and biophysics department was involved in middle school, high school and college outreach events. Faculty were involved in “How To Be A Scientist” and “Career Day'' at local middle schools. At the college level, faculty gave a science career talk at Idaho State University. Associate Professor Alysia Vrailas-Mortimer, just received funding to expand Fly-CURE RCN, a research coordination network that brings together faculty across the U.S. to create course-based undergraduate research experiences.