University of Calgary

Giving back to science

UToday HomeFebruary 29, 2012

Sigma Xi wants to expand a project connecting teachers and students with the excitement of scientific research. Last year, it helped high school teachers integrate research by paleontologist Jessica Theodor (centre) into the Biology 20 curriculum.Sigma Xi wants to expand a project connecting teachers and students with the excitement of scientific research. Last year, it helped high school teachers integrate research by paleontologist Jessica Theodor (centre) into the Biology 20 curriculum. Photo by Riley BrandtNorth America’s oldest and most prestigious scientific society is meeting on campus tomorrow. The local Sigma Xi chapter will welcome the society’s executive director, Jerome Baker, who will discuss how local members can give back and provide a means to promote science, integrity in science and science education.

Sigma Xi translates to ‘companions in zealous research,’ which neatly captures its goal of promoting science and scientific education across multiple disciplines. Membership is based on both achievement and potential, and the membership is illustrious. More than 60,000 scientists and engineers belong to Sigma Xi, including President Elizabeth Cannon and Vice-President (Research) Edward McCauley as well as 200 Nobel Laureates.

Biological sciences professor Howard Ceri was president of Sigma Xi in 2009/10—only the second Canadian to hold the job in the society’s 125-year history. “These meetings give people a real opportunity to see where their research interests might mesh. You learn about new research and new research groups with the goal of fostering collaboration.”

Calgary’s Sigma Xi chapter wants to expand a pilot program that’s trying to rethink scientific education in grade school. Last year, a group of high school teachers took research published in the journal Science by Jessica Theodor, a paleontologist in the Department of Biological Sciences, and integrated it into the Biology 20 curriculum. This year Sigma Xi would like to bring that concept to junior high schools.

“We want to instil the excitement of science,” says Ceri. “Why do people get excited about scientific research? It’s not because they love to memorize facts, but that is so much what science is about in grade school. We would like to change the focus, by getting into the system as early as possible, to help science teachers to reconnect with their research backgrounds and bring that excitement back into the classroom.”

Baker’s rare visit to Calgary is the perfect opportunity to bring Sigma Xi’s Calgary chapter together to discuss the latest research and to talk about making science relevant to the general public, says Ceri.

The meeting of the Sigma Xi Calgary chapter is open to everyone—Thursday, March 1 at noon until1 p.m. in Biological Sciences room 499.