Through the Athens Science Café and the Athens Science Observer, UGA faculty and graduate students are making scientific knowledge accessible - and interesting - to the public. Co-founded by Rishi Masalia (Ph.D. '18, plant biology), the Athens Science Alliance has seeded an exchange of connections between the university and the Athens community by creating a dialogue between scientists and citizens:
“We started out as a group of science nerds who liked talking about science,” Masalia said. “Currently, the Café is coming up on its 7th birthday, and it’s taken on a life of its own, continuously evolving with each new group of student leaders.”
The Café initially received financial support from UGA through the President’s Venture Fund. Last year, Jason Wallace, assistant professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, wrote in funding for the Athens Science Café as part of a grant proposal. Thanks to this extra support, the Café can now invite speakers from across the country, such as Mills.
“Government agencies want their research to have an impact on society, and the Athens Science Café helps move cool research out of the lab and into an everyday setting,” Wallace said.
However, Café speakers were usually well-established professionals, and there was a growing desire for current students to themselves engage in science communication, according to Masalia. He and a group of graduate students—all involved in the Café at the time—wanted to practice science communication instead of just facilitating talks. After individually writing blogs and exchanging feedback, Masalia and two of his colleagues, John Spiekerman and Jeff Cannon, got together and hatched the idea of formally launching a blog-type website.
Great work by so many of our public-spirited colleagues, who realize the thirst for understanding doesn't stop at Broad or Lumpkin Streets. The strength of our town-and-gown connections is the strength of Athens and UGA.
Image: In November, the Athens Science Café brought in its first national scholar, David Mills, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who spoke about the importance of breast milk. (Photos by Jason Thrasher)