If you’ve walked past the library this week, you may have noticed a slightly different crowd of people at the tables outside or wandering around the T-room. U of T was hosting its first Science Literacy Week with demonstrations and free lectures aimed to get students excited about science.
Recent UTM grad Jesse Hildebrand came up with the event, which took place not only at U of T but also at York and public libraries in Toronto and Mississauga.
“If people understand and are eager to participate in scientific endeavours, history shows that time and time again we can make extraordinary leaps forward in our knowledge,” said Hildebrand.
“Ever since I was very little, I knew I wanted to go into large-scale science communication,” he said. “So the moment I finished my degree, I approached the libraries to see if they could help make this happen, and luckily for me they were really keen to help.”
Let’s Talk Science carried out live demonstrations of scientific concepts outside the library. Their experiments ranged from creating an electromagnetic motor to using your own smartphone as a microscope.
There was also an opportunity to extract and isolate DNA from a strawberry using household materials such as water, salt, and detergent.
“I’ve got so many questions,” said Zaryaab Rauf, a first-year social sciences student. “I definitely want to try this at home to impress my parents! How can DNA extraction be this simple?”
“The best part was interacting with the university students from different fields,” said Tanzeela Tanveer, a CTEP student and one of the demonstrators at the Let’s Talk Science table. “Since one of the ideas behind LTS is to get people talking about science, it was nice to see that play out with students who weren’t necessarily in the science field.”
On display in the library’s T-room were various posters, demonstrations, and graphic novels created by UTM faculty and students in the biomedical communication program. There were also several models, such as a 3D model of an ear and leap motion technology. Faculty and students hand-selected a display of books across the main counter aiming to get readers excited about science.
Graduate student Kyla Ercit had selected Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation.
“[The book] presents the weird sex lives of animals in the form of a sex advice column,” said Ercit. “The stories are short and entertaining and you don’t realise you’re learning. It’s pretty accurate and packs a lot of science in.”
At the St. George campus, there were free evening lectures throughout the week on various topics, including “Digging Dinosaurs: Fact and Fiction in Jurassic Park”, “Misconceptions about the Big Bang”, and “Explaining the Complex Lives of Parasites”. A night sky viewing was held at campus observatories to view phenomena such as the Ring Nebula.
Hildebrand hopes not only for Science Literacy Week to return next year, but to turn it into the largest event of its kind in Canada.
“All too often, great science writing can be quite droll and turn people off, but if you know where to look you can find real gems,” he said. “If one student comes out of this with a respect for non-fiction work, or wants to hug a librarian, I’ll be quite happy.”