I recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati as a double major in Biochemistry and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Throughout my undergraduate career, I was unsure about how I could blend these interests. While my experiences in STEM had been very bench-research oriented, my experiences with the social sciences had focused on community-level activism and outreach. After taking a Feminist Philosophy of Science course in fall 2020 with Dr. Melissa Jacquart, Associate Director of the UC Center for Public Engagement with Science (PEWS), I realized that public engagement with science could be a productive way to unite my interests. Public engagement with science has the potential to make science more equitable by prioritizing community engagement.
I worked as a student intern with PEWS this past summer to better understand courses and activities at the UC that bear on or incorporate public engagement with science, focusing primarily on the College of Arts & Sciences. Initially, I did not expect there would be many courses that would relate to public engagement with science. I could not have been more wrong, I found that there are many more courses than I had imagined. Departments that I had not previously associated with science – such as Africana Studies, Communication, and English – offer courses that focused on writing and communicating science for the public. Some of the courses in these departments also have a community outreach component, demonstrating how the humanities can promote an equitable approach to science. I wish I had known about these opportunities earlier in my studies.
I also found that many of the courses and outreach activities related to public engagement with science focus on environmental studies. Many of these environment-focused courses importantly have an emphasis on social justice. For example, some courses focus on how to write about environmental justice for generalized audiences while others focus on developing sustainable projects that would help Cincinnati communities.
It is clear from my conversations with departments, faculty, and graduate students alike that there is a lot of public engagement with science courses and activities at UC. With collaboration among faculty, students, and departments interested in public engagement with science, there is potential to develop interdisciplinary outreach projects. I am happy to have spent the past summer working with the Center for Public Engagement with Science as they are trying to help build these connections between faculty and students in different disciplines.