PEROT MUSEUM OF NATURE AND SCIENCE ANNOUNCES INNOVATIVE KING FAMILY FELLOWS PROGRAM TO DEVELOP SCIENCE COMMUNICATORS OF THE FUTURE
DALLAS (Nov. 12, 2014) Ask a student to name his or her favorite subject, and for many the sciences - math, chemistry, physics and such; may fall near the bottom of the list. Dallas couple Eugenia and Frank-Paul King and their family want to change that mindset and encourage scientists of the future. With an objective to improve the ways science is communicated, particularly to schoolchildren, they’ve endowed a paid fellowship program at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science called the King Family Fellows.
"We know science is a crucial part of our everyday lives, and Eugenia and I wanted to do our part so young people can truly understand how exciting the sciences are," said King, who chaired the Perot Museum from 2006 – 2010 and played a crucial leadership role in getting the new museum in Victory Park built. "We also want the King Family Fellows to introduce kids to the wealth of really diverse and fascinating STEM careers out there today."
King says the purpose of the King Family Fellows program is to identify scientists – who view the discipline as beautiful, important and relevant – and mold them into captivating communicators and ambassadors who will help foster the next generation of scientists, great thinkers, inventors, problem solvers and innovators.
During a 1-year post, the King Family Fellow will embed themselves into areas across the Perot Museum - from creating educational content and communicating it to children and adults in the labs and galleries, to engaging kids at public schools, to honing public speaking skills out in the community and in the national science arena.
Perot Museum names first King Family Fellow
Although competition was fierce, Dr. Lauren Michel (MIH shell), a recent Ph.D. graduate in geology from Baylor University, rose to the top as the inaugural King Family Fellow. She reported to duty in August and immediately jumped head-first into the year-long fellowship where she divides her time between current research in paleoclimatology and ongoing programs at the Perot Museum.
Vice President of Programs Steve Hinkley explains why Dr. Michel was a good fit as the inaugural fellow saying "she has an incredible energy about her and will really be a dynamic addition to the programming team."
Michel calls the first few months as a fellow "tremendous." She defines a successful year as one where "I can bring my passion as a scientific researcher to the general public and spend more time educating them on why science is important to their everyday lives."
And advancing the number of women in science is also a goal.
"I'm very inspired by the works of high-profile, popular scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, but I really want to put a woman" face on science as Jane Goodall has done through her decades of contributions,"said Dr. Michel.
Perot Museum CEO Colleen Walker agrees.
"Lauren is an outstanding person to launch this fellowship, and she will serve as a role model to many, especially young girls," said Colleen Walker, Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer of the Perot Museum. "We are truly grateful to Eugenia and Frank-Paul for this incredible opportunity that will enrich our museum - and potentially influence the way science is communicated - for years to come."
Dr. Michel heads to Antarctica
The Perot Museum has gained notoriety for its "In the Field" research initiatives to Alaska and the Arctic Circle, spearheaded by Dr. Anthony Fiorillo, vice president of research and collections and chief curator. In addition to leading these research expeditions, Perot Museum scientists also participate in field projects as collaborators with other institutions. As a member of one of these collaborative partnerships, Dr. Michel is about to embark on an intense expedition to one of the most remote and mysterious continents on Earth - Antarctica, home to the South Pole and an ecosystem where 98% of the continent is covered in ice. Dr. Michel's month-long "In the Field" journey to Antarctica is being organized and led by the University of Kansas and is truly a global mission that includes scientists from three countries - Argentina, France and the U.S. The post-field work phase brings in a fourth country with Swedish scientists participating in the final research. The team will study how Antarctic plants evolved during the Jurassic period (180 - 184 million years ago) using a combination of geology, geochemistry and paleobotany.
"We are trying to understand what the climate and environment were like at the South Pole during one of Earth" former greenhouse climates, and how plants responded to long-term climate changes and instantaneous volcanic disruptions," said Dr. Michel. "This research can help us understand how changes in climate may affect plants in Polar Regions, thereby helping us understand climate change on a broader scale."
And in keeping with her promise to make science more engaging and relevant, while in the field Dr. Michel and other scientists on the team hope to communicate in real time -- connectivity permitting -- through blogs, social media, satellite phone and video chats. The public is invited to follow their blog at perotmuseum.org/inthefield.
"I realize most people may never get to visit Antarctica, so I'd like to try to bring the southernmost continent to life by keeping a stream of communication going the entire month of my fieldwork," said Dr. Michel.
She will also share details about the rigorous training required before she immerses herself into the polar climate -- which in November and early December is late spring in the southern hemisphere and therefore one of the "warmer" times of year -- averages from a brutal 10 to 36 degrees below 0. Also, the time change places her 17 hours ahead of Dallas" Central time zone.
Dr. Michel departs Nov. 11 with stops in Sydney, Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand. She then arrives at McMurdo Station,a U.S. Antarctic research center located on the southern tip of Ross Island to prepare and undergo rigorous "snow school training." Next she’ll travel by helicopter to the deeply inland and remote Allan Hills, a region whose 12 miles of hills are mostly ice-free. For the next two weeks, there will only be satellite-phone access from the remote camp. Weather permitting; she is due to arrive back in Dallas around Dec. 11.
About the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science is a nonprofit educational organization located in Dallas, Texas, with campuses in Victory Park and Fair Park. In support of its mission to inspire minds through nature and science, the Perot Museum delivers exciting, engaging and innovative visitor and outreach experiences through its education, exhibition, and research and collections programming for children, students, teachers, families and life-long learners. The $185 million Victory Park museum, designed by 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate Thom Mayne and his firm Morphosis Architects, opened to the public December 1, 2012. The Perot Museum is named in honor of Margot and Ross Perot, the result of a $50 million gift made by their five adult children. To learn more about the Perot Museum, please visit perotmuseum.org.