Rice faculty, staff, students engage in AAAS Classroom Science Days

Eleven representatives of Rice University spoke about their personal journeys into science careers at schools in Dallas and Houston for the 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Classroom Science Days Feb. 15.

Scott Solomon, associate teaching professor in BioSciences, spoke at Clifton Middle School for AAAS Classroom Science Days.

AAAS Classroom Science Days occurs each year as the opening event for the AAAS Annual Meeting. Hosted in the city where the meeting is being held, the program helps students in grades K–12 understand the increasing importance that science and technology play in their lives.

Growing evidence shows that meeting scientists and hearing about their work, as well as their struggles, can help students see themselves as scientists and have a positive effect on their academic work. Through collaboration between local communities and resources, AAAS Classroom Science Days aims to show students, teachers and parents how to access their local scientific community and turn learning science into a lifelong pursuit.

Rice faculty participants included Scott Solomon, associate teaching professor in BioSciences, who spoke at Clifton Middle School; and Richard Tapia, University Professor, the Maxfield-Oshman Professor in Engineering and a professor of computational and applied mathematics, who spoke at several Houston high schools.

“The kids were very curious and even asked some questions that scientists don’t yet know the answers to,” Soloman said. “I spoke about how I became a biologist and some of my adventures studying ants. We played a game called two truths and a lie in which I told them three things about ants, and they had to guess which two were true and which was not true. In the end, I admitted that all three were true. This got quite a reaction!”

Greshma Nair, an electrical and computational engineering postdoctoral research associate, spoke at North Houston Early College High School.

Rice student participants included Lucrecia Aguilar, an ecology and evolutionary biology senior, who spoke at Austin High School; Iyabo Iawal, a mechanical engineering graduate student, who spoke at Drew Academy Middle School; Arun Mahadevan, a bioengineering graduate student, who spoke at Houston Academy for International Studies; Jordin Metz, a chemistry graduate student, who spoke at South Early College High School; Elaine Shen, an ecology and evolutionary biology senior, who spoke at Lanier Middle School; Kelly Turner, a biochemistry and cell biology junior, who spoke at Energy Institute High School; Nicholas Zaibaq, a chemistry graduate student, who spoke at Good Shepherd Episcopal School; and Ye Emma Zohner, a statistics graduate student, who spoke at Pin Oak Middle School.

“Chemistry is often intimidating and considered really difficult or abstract, so I tried to break some of those barriers by approaching it from a totally different angle and examining things we encounter in our everyday lives,” Metz said.

Metz gave a talk about chemistry in everyday life and explained how chemistry is present in the world around us.

“I got a lot of questions afterward related to my background and the work I do in water purification at Rice’s Nanotechnology Enabled Water Treatment Center,” he said. “The students were particularly interested to know about the quality of Houston’s water and how they could learn about it. They were especially interested and engaged when the science was relevant to them.”

About Kendall Schoemann

Kendall Schoemann is a staff writer in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.