As a marine biologist, I spent much of my college career in a lab. Between required courses, and extra research, I spent countless hours learning techniques and taking every opportunity to get back into the field. Like many people, my favorite part of research was hanging off the side of a boat for a plankton tow, or getting dirty pulling out a core sample.
During my masters degree coursework, I started taking courses in Science Communication and Science Visualization. In one of those courses, we had to design exhibits for the California Science Center, a museum just across the street from my university. I absolutely loved the opportunity to be creative, but even more, I loved getting to engage with people.
Fast forward three years to when I was hired as a full-time educator at the California Science Center! My job is to write and deliver science programming to school groups, homeschooled students, and summer campers who come to the museum. In all the programs I develop, I create from the perspective of a scientist - that's what my degree is in, and that's where my experience is. I try to make each class hands on, and as close to "real science" as possible.
There are definitely a number of challenges! First, I have students from Kindergarten through high school, and it's very hard to find age-appropriate science research. Secondly, the usual budget restrictions limits many activities to do-it-yourself equipment and popsicle sticks - not fancy laboratory equipment I was used to in college!
But most of all, it's been very difficult to find real research that's relatable, understandable, and of course, cool! Marine Biology has been a great source to pull from, but after 5 years, I'm running out of material to pull from. And personally, while I don't necessarily miss the lab bench, I miss the learning that came from research and interacting with neighboring labs and researchers.
Ever since I heard about PolarTREC, I've applied every year. I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to connect with real research again. PolarTREC has an amazing network of educators, researchers, scientific topics, and educational resources (some of which I've used in my classes :).
And I'm so glad all the perseverance paid off! I have already learned so much about the IceCube Project and neutrinos! I haven't taken a physics course since high school, and let's just say, it wasn't my strongest class either. But I absolutely love learning and applying myself to something so far out of my comfort zone. And I can't wait for more to come!
If you also want to learn about neutrinos and the IceCube project, here's a video created by former PolarTREC educator Casey O'Hara. I hope to create some animations of my own along the way too!