Bard College Citizen Science

Bard College Citizen Science


♪♪♪ [Amy Savage:] The spring semester for Bard first-years resumes in January with Citizen Science, a three-week program that is one of the pillars of the Bard first-year experience. [Mythili Ananthasayan:] And then when you want to expel it, you want to hit both stops. [Amy Savage:] The intention of the program is to increase science literacy among our students, it’s to arm our students with the habits of mind and the logic in order to engage with the scientific concepts that come up. [Matthew Deady:] You go to the doctor, he takes a culture, he says you’ve got strep, and he gives you a particular antibiotic aimed at strep. What does that antibiotic do? It’s being able to see everything around you in a way that can make you an informed citizen. [Amy Savage:] Do I vaccinate my child? Why is somebody not vaccinating their child? Do cell phones cause cancer? What about the recycling of the battery— how do I find out if that’s actually a sensible decision? So Citizen Science is about engaging with scientific material, learning how to find it, how to interpret it. [Lynn Diener:] They get an opportunity to feel more comfortable with the science content that they see in the newspapers, in magazines. [Amy Savage:] This is very different than a science course; the students that come in with a lot of science background or very little are all on common footing. One of the most important parts about this for science majors is to learn how other people understand science, and getting the opportunity to learn how to communicate it. Around this disc you’ll have, like, a zone of inhibition, which is essentially a space where the bacteria won’t grow. A question I’m commonly asked is: who teaches in Citizen Science? The short answer is: the best scientist educators from across the country. They’re all in the cutting edge of their programs, so they have all of this new information and they’re doing incredible research. [Dylan Dahan:] I’m going to be working this summer at UC Berkeley, on the human microbiome project, and if it wasn’t for the faculty members that I met at Citizen Science, I don’t think that would be possible. We’re not trying to recruit anyone to the sciences, we just want to engage them in this conversation, and each year I’m surprised at the change in perspective that some students—many students—experience. A lot of these students have chosen to remain engaged in the Citizen Science Program, and you can see them in our classroom as part of our Citizen Science Teaching Fellow Program. [Mythili Ananthasayan:] And if you press it just a little bit more, it goes in one step further. It made a huge change in my academic plans, and what I really wanted to do was give back to the fact that this program had made me realize what I wanted to do with my life. No matter what you will do, what you will study, who you go on to be professionally, knowing how to tackle difficult problems outside of your area of expertise will help you be more successful in almost any challenge that you’re going to be faced with down the road. ♪♪♪

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