Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Monday evening at the Cambridge Science Festival

This Spring the American Chemical Society sponsored and actively participated in three science festivals in San Diego, Boston (Cambridge) and Washington D.C. The San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering and the Cambridge Science Festival were  both week long science festivals with a science-fair-like kick-off event featuring hands-on-activities for families and a Chemistry of Food Science Cafe festival event aimed at the general public attendees. ACS National utilized food chemistry experts Shirley Corriher  (for San Diego) and Sara Risch (for Cambridge) both of whom are members to the Committee on Public Relations and Communications (CPRC), to communicate chemistry to the public using the science cafe platform on a subject that everyone enjoys: food.


The Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS) fully supported the ACS National call to action for volunteers for the hands-on-science carnival (see more information about this event here) as well as promoting the Chemistry of Food Science Cafe to our membership and local press. 
By the morning of the Chemistry of Food Science Cafe the event registration had logged 129 pre-registrants thanks due in part certainly to the press releases  that were run by the Boston Phoenix, Arts Boston and the Back Bay Patch. Prior to these press releases event registrants topped out at 41. 


Arriving early to meet the speaker were Jack Driscoll, PR Chair of NESACS and Ruth Tanner, Chair of NESACS. Good thing too, otherwise they would not have been able to speak to Sara after the event because she was flogged with science cafe attendees and their questions. 


I too arrived at the event early to say "hi" to my friend and fellow CPRC committee member, Sara and to assist with setup and to work the door. However, 
since it was an official Cambridge Science Festival event we were assigned two "Curious Staff" festival volunteers so I gave them the door  task and welcomed people as they came in. It was obvious to me after speaking with several attendees that they didn't know what to expect. Some came because it was a free science festival event, some because they are foodies, others because they like chemistry, one gal I spoke with works as a marketer in the food industry and another woman who has Type II Diabetes, came to the event eager to learn dietary tips for her condition. 
As I explained the purpose of the event to yet another inquisitive attendee noting that I was representing the American Chemical Society she said "oh chemicals, those are bad. Is this about chemicals in our food?" I realized that we had reached our mark for this event: we were looking for a general public audience and that we must continue our diligent effort as chemistry ambassadors to change the public perception of chemistry. 


The "Curious Staff" checked in 80 pre-registrants off the "guest list" as well as confused some regulars who were coming for an after work beverage and/or dinner. 



NESACS Chair, Ruth Tanner , introduced the Chemistry of Food Science Cafe speaker, Sara Risch, who was flown in from Hungary to share her knowledge as a career Food Chemist. 

We packed the house for Sara! Folks were standing everywhere-listening attentively (except for a handful of the regulars-which is why I prefer a private room for a science cafe).  She did need to use a microphone and be placed in the corner at the podium (likely where the DJ sets up for the evenings that the venue is used as a night club) so that everyone could hear her. Sara encouraged audience participation and she surely got an interactive crowd. 


I had the opportunity to meet Sung Kim, the Cambridge Science Festival event coordinator, and I learned that the Monday night event at the Cambridge Science Festival historically has low attendance. She was impressed with our wildly successful event.



Chemistry Ambassadors, Jack Driscoll, Sara Risch, Ruth Tanner, Jennifer Maclachlan and Alvin Collins of ACS National and the event organizer.

1 comment:

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