Pallavi Kompella – The University of Texas at Austin. United States
Greg Clark – The University of Texas at Austin United States
Brant Gracia – University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center United States
Lucy LeBlanc – The University of Texas at Austin United States
jIn an increasingly complex world, scientific method becomes an indispensable tool for not just scientists but everyone. The Present Your PhD to a 12-Year Old (PYP) program at the University of Texas at Austin strives to provide additional avenues to learn this first-hand from pre-doctoral researchers. Since 2017, PYP has been hosting an annual Youth Science Workshop (YSW). In this interactive workshop, graduate students from diverse scientific disciplines introduce middle and high school students to their doctoral research and mentor them to develop a simple but creative white-board presentation for communicating key concepts to a wider lay audience. We evaluated the effectiveness of YSW on young students’ attitudes towards science, scientists and academic research, through a pre-post retrospective. This survey included five specific educational constructs: interest in science, intentions to persist in science, confidence in learning science, perceptions of scientists, and perceived usefulness of science. The results showed pre-post gains in their interest and attitude towards science, and their perception of scientists. Many students also reported that learning the scientific content, interacting in small teams and having an opportunity to present to their peers were their favorite aspects of the workshop. In addition, an interview with the participating graduate students to access their overall satisfaction with the YSW revealed that this experience significantly improved their communication skills and increased their interest in academia. The YSW is one of the first examples of a low-cost, short-duration outreach event with measureable positive outcomes amenable to all disciplines of science. Increasing the frequency of such events can contribute towards sustaining the positive outcomes and improving support for basic science research while engaging with the public to enrich their understanding of the scientific method. This model can be easily replicated by scientists at other institutions to globally enhance science outreach initiatives.
The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.