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Syracuse University physicists partner with the MOST to bring the science of the Universe to the masses
Syracuse University physicists partner with the MOST to bring the science of the Universe to the massesOctober 25, 2002Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
An interdisciplinary team of physicists, designers and students from Syracuse University are partners with the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology (MOST) on a $600,000 National Science Foundation grant to create an interactive exhibit designed to demystify the Universe for museum visitors.
The exhibit, “Cosmic Connections,” will comprise a series of hands-on experiments, illustrations, video demonstrations and other activities that are designed to convey the latest scientific discoveries in the field of cosmology to the general public. The project will also provide graduate and undergraduate students at Syracuse University with hands-on experience in building exhibits for a public space and with opportunities to teach Central New York children who participate in the educational outreach programs at the MOST.
“Cosmology is one of the most exciting and fastest growing fields in physics today,” says Carl Rosenzweig, professor and principle investigator for the project. “New technologies have enabled us to develop experiments to test our theories about the Universe, which have yielded fascinating results. Our goal is to share this information with the public in ways that are interesting and easily understood.”
Steve Karon, the founding executive director of the MOST, says: “The grant will help the MOST provide exhibits in an area that currently is not displayed. We’re very pleased to be working with such a prestigious group of researchers and designers from Syracuse University. We are confident the new exhibits will delight the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the MOST.”
Working with Rosenzweig as co-principle investigators on the project are SU physicists Mark Trodden, Donald Marolf and Peter Saulson, who are experts in the areas of cosmology, particle physics, and General Relativity, and other faculty and staff in the Department of Physics in SU’s College of Arts and Sciences. The physicists will also be working with physics graduate students to develop the educational material and experiments for the exhibit.
Joining them will be Iris Magidson, assistant professor in SU’s School of Art and Design, College of Visual and Performing Arts. Magidson and a group of undergraduate students who are majoring in communications design will attempt to translate the scientific information the physicists provide into an attractive, interactive, multimedia exhibit.
“The project is a fantastic cross-disciplinary opportunity for students at Syracuse University,” Magidson says. “For the project to be successful, students and faculty from two entirely separate disciplines will be engaging each other in a wonderful exchange of knowledge, ideas and talents. In addition, the students will be working on a real-world project that will get built. They will be able to see the fruits of their labors on display in a public space.”
Educators from the Syracuse community will also join the project to ensure that the target audience-predominately middle school students-will be able to relate to the exhibits, Rosenzweig says.
“Teachers from the public school systems will give us input on the exhibits and help keep us on target,” Rosenzweig says. “As physicists, we’re very capable of explaining our research and discoveries to each other, but we want to be sure that we can explain it to our target audience.”
The NSF grant was funded under the agency’s Internships for Public Science Education Program, which supports projects that are designed to bring together the expertise of the science research community and the public science education community. The program also provides support for graduate and undergraduate students to work with educators in the K-12 community, as well as professionals at science centers and museums.