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VIDEO: Catskeller Crowd Selects UC’s “Science Idol”


Judges’ deliberations and the crowd’s energetic applause determined the winner of UC’s first-ever “Science Idol.” Now, watch the one-minute video and judge for yourself.

Date: 4/18/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover, Video by Ashley Kempher

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Performance pressure and the ability to connect with a broad audience – along with some humor – were all part of the University of Cincinnati’s first-ever “Science Idol” on April 16.

In the “Science Idol” competition, UC's answer to "American Idol," each contestant had two-and-a-half minutes to explain the who, what and why of their research in a compelling and creative manner for a general audience. Each received lighthearted feedback from the judges, and audience applause determined the final winner. After all, said co-master of ceremonies Ken Petren, associate professor of biology, “What could be more scientifically accurate than an applause vote?”

Selected as UC’s “Science Idol” was Elizabeth Kopras, a graduate student in environmental health. She dressed as a 14th century knight – wearing tunic, helmet, breast plate and carrying a sword and shield  – to represent her research into how the nutritional diet of the past provided needed vitamin K in a way that our modern diet does not.

The “Science Idol” contest was the brainchild of students in the UC Forward course, “Innovation in Science Communication,” taught by Elissa Yancey, educator associate professor of journalism.
 
Says Yancey, “In advance of the competition, the journalism students had taken what they learned in class and held workshops in research labs to review best research communications practices with graduate student researchers. It’s an opportunity to make the leap from jargon to the magic of science, translating the passion researchers feel to engagement with a general audience.”

Participating as “Science Idol” contestants were
  • Brooke Crowley, assistant professor in geology and anthropology
  • Erin Haynes, assistant professor in environmental health
  • David Nash, professor of geology
  • Doug Disbennett, undergraduate student in geology
  • Graduate student Elizabeth Kopras of environmental health
  • Graduate student Shilpa Shah of environmental health, who is also a Fellow in critical care medicine
 Serving as judges were
  • Greg Hand, university spokesperson, director of public relations and associate vice president of Governmental Relations and University Communications
  • Adjunct Instructor Brenda Hunda, curator of Invertebrate Paleontology Office at the Cincinnati Museum Center
  • Amy Townsend-Small, assistant professor of geology and geography
Serving as masters of ceremonies were Lane Hart, 2012-2013 student body president, and Ken Petren, associate professor of biological sciences.
 
The students in the “Innovation in Science Communication” course and organizing the “Science Idol” event were
  • Rebecca Butts, an undergraduate student double majoring in English and journalism
  • Alana Frew, an undergraduate student double majoring in environmental science and journalism
  • Justin Kelley, an undergraduate student double majoring in environmental science and finance
  • Taylor Payne, an undergraduate student double majoring in communications and journalism