Today we're introducing you to Michael Barresi, PhD, who heads a developmental biology lab at Smith College.
NV: What do you do?
Michael: I am a biologist and assistant professor at Smith College in Northampton, MA.
NV: How did you get started in outreach/advocacy?
Michael: I am inherently interested in learning and determining the most effective ways to help others learn. Advocacy for others not directly related to my job performance was spurred by an interest in improving the educational environment for my own children and, in doing so, other children of all ages.
NV: What motivates you to do advocacy?
Michael: Pure self-interest in learning and teaching, and hopefully helping my own kids along the way. I also feel in the sciences that in order to truly make an impact on student engagement with science it has to happen at the primary and secondary education level. Come college, most students have already made up their minds. Students need to be excited about science early. Therefore if I am to have any part in that transformation, it has to be through outreach and science advocacy.
NV: In what ways does your outreach affect those you receive it?
Michael: Hopefully makes them more interested and curious about science. Hopefully gets students to start questioning the world around them. And in some cases gain hands-on experience using modern laboratory equipment to apply the scientific method to solve problems in biology.
NV: Do you think outreach and advocacy is a responsibility of all scientists? Should it be required?
Michael: No. Most scientists are trained to carry out technical experiments and further the pursuit of knowledge using the scientific method. However, few to none have actually been trained to do outreach, or even teach for that matter. So there are many ill-prepared scientists that really have no business providing outreach. That being said I also feel scientists are ironically the most prepared to excite children and the public in the importance of science investigation. There are also a lot of misconceptions of scientists out there that only scientists can begin to break down. This will be critical to help students, particularly underrepresented minorities, begin to feel careers in science are actually possible. So in a way scientists do have a responsibility, but unfortunately all scientists are not necessarily prepared to provide such advocacy and outreach.
Thank you to Michael for giving us his time via email so we could learn more about him and his outreach work.
This is part of the ongoing Profiling New Voices series.