Saturday Morning Science Program Encourages Public to Get Excited about Science
Columbia, Mo. — A recent donation to the University of Missouri's Saturday Morning Science program will help make science more accessible to the people of Missouri. Monsanto Company of St. Louis donated $11,600 to the science outreach program, which has a mission to stimulate public knowledge and excitement around science.
"Science is a tool for understanding our world," said Bruce McClure, professor of plant biochemistry at MU and one of three volunteer organizers of the Saturday Morning Science program. "It should be shared and promoted."
Saturday Morning Science is a free public lecture series held every Saturday morning during the spring and fall in Monsanto Auditorium on the university's campus. The program provides attendees a chance to learn about science from world-renowned researchers through fun and interactive talks.
The volunteer-run program is funded primarily by the MU Office of Research and the University Bookstore. Monsanto is the first private organization to step forward and support this effort with a sizable donation.
"Saturday Morning Science helps demystify science for the public by talking about it in relationship to things that are relevant to people who care about their communities and their world," said Robert Fraley, Monsanto Chief Technology Officer. "We are happy to have Monsanto onboard to help deliver public science programs in a fun and engaging way."
Most Saturday Morning Science speakers conduct research at the university. With Monsanto's donation, the organizers can bring in scientists from across the country to broaden the topics covered.
"For example, we brought in Dave DeMarais from NASA's Ames Research Center last year to talk about recent advances in Mars exploration," McClure said. "His talk was a big hit. Monsanto's sponsorship will allow us to host more speakers like DeMarias more often."
The donation also will allow the university to take science talks on the road and into more communities across Missouri through its "Science Talks to You" programming.
"Here in Columbia, we are lucky to have a research university, museums and other community resources we can draw from to put these science talks together," McClure said. "But, there are many communities across Missouri that don't have access to museums, science centers or universities. Our goal is to reach out to those communities."
Conceptualized by McClure; Robert Duncan, vice chancellor of research; and Anna Waldron, director of the Office of Science Outreach, Science Talks to You is an offshoot of Saturday Morning Science. Through this program, organizers presented the science talks in St. Joseph, Mo., last spring.
Additionally, some of the money will be used to support a graduate-level course designed by Hannah Alexander, associate professor of biological sciences at MU, to teach future scientists how to communicate their research in simple terms. As part of the course, students develop and give presentations at the public library, local community centers, adult-living facilities and other similar venues.
"Each of these science outreach programs is designed specifically to give the public the chance to meet and talk to scientists and learn how science affects their everyday lives," McClure said.
The spring schedule for Saturday Morning Science is available online at http://satscience.missouri.edu.
More information about the Science Talks to You program, including a calendar of events, also is online at http://sciencetalkstoyou.missouri.edu.