CORVALLIS - Eight scientists at Oregon State University are featured in a new exhibit at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry that looks at people who actively use science in their everyday careers.
The exhibit, "Faces of Science," opened in May as a permanent addition to the museum. The exhibit is unique because it is the first exhibit at OMSI to focus on the people rather than the processes behind scientific principles. Featuring profiles of 26 scientists who were selected to showcase the diversity of people using science, it includes several scientists who are typically under-represented in science careers.
"It's exciting because through the exhibit I can show kids that a woman, and a minority woman, can be involved in an exciting science career," said Marta Torres, an OSU assistant professor and oceanographer.
Torres grew up in Costa Rica and didn't arrive in the United States until 1980, when she began her graduate studies at OSU.
"I had to overcome a number of barriers, including language, to pursue my career in science," Torres said. "That's an important lesson that this exhibit conveys. If you want to become a scientist, it doesn't matter what your background is, you can pursue that dream."
The exhibit consists of oversize photos and copy panels that provide interesting insight on each scientist's childhood, hobbies, family and challenges they have overcome, helping young visitors understand that scientists are "real people." The panels are placed in locations throughout the museum that tie the scientists' specialties with content covered in specific exhibit halls.
Dawn Wright, an assistant professor of geosciences at OSU, said the exhibit is both humbling and exciting.
"I was quite bashful to see myself profiled, even though the photographer and the science writer did a fantastic job on my panels, but I was even more inspired to read about the other people that were profiled," Wright said. "Overall, OMSI did a wonderful job and it was great fun working with them."
Martha Brookes, a science editor with the United States Department of Agriculture, who once worked in the College of Forestry as an editor and later taught science writing and editing at OSU, said OMSI's exhibit sends a good message.
"OMSI's emphasizing the diversity of scientists and of scientific professions is a great idea, especially for encouraging children to think they could become scientists, but also for those grown-ups whose imprinted vision of 'scientist' is Dr. Frankenstein," Brookes said.
Jeff Barnes, an OSU professor of oceanographic and atmospheric sciences, said the exhibit achieves its goal of portraying scientists as people.
"The exhibit should enable kids and adults to relate better to science and scientists - to not see them as esoteric or strange," Barnes said. "It's fun to think that some future scientists might be inspired by that exhibit."
Faces of Science is included with OMSI general admission, $6.50 for adults (ages 14-62) and $4.50 for seniors (63-and-older) and youths (ages four to 13). Through Sept. 6, OMSI is open Monday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Thursday until 8 p.m.
OSU scientists in the exhibit include:
Avina is a riparian ecologist finishing her Ph.D. at OSU. She studies the relationship between the flood patterns of streams and the kinds of plants and trees that grow around streams. Her research may eventually be used to make streams better for salmon.
Barnes is a nationally known atmospheric scientist participating in NASA's Mars Pathfinder and Mars Surveyor missions. He's also a long-time member of the advisory committee for Oregon Space Grant.
Brookes is a biologist with wide knowledge of forestry acquired from 35 years of editing and learning from all of forestry's disciplines. She edited the Forest Service's landmark report on the northern spotted owl. As editor, she clarifies research results so they will reach and influence land management policy makers and land managers.
Oros is an organic geochemist who received his Ph.D. from OSU in June. He has done extensive chemical analyses of the sources of pollution at Crater Lake. His work has been used to recommend changes in the management of the crystal blue waters that are the heart of this National Park.
As an assistant professor in OSU's College of Pharmacy, Rodriguez studies drug metabolism and develops drug trials.
Torres is an assistant professor of oceanography and atmospheric sciences at OSU's College of Oceanographic and Atmospheric Sciences. She uses remotely operated vehicles (underwater robots) to study methane gas in the ocean, potentially a long-term source of fuel.
Ungerer is a research associate and analytical chemist at the College of Oceanographic and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU. He operates an ICP Mass Spectrometer to identify the elements in environmental samples.
Wright is an assistant professor of geosciences at the College of Oceanographic and Atmospheric Sciences at OSU. She is an expert in using remote sensing technology to map the ocean floor and works with middle- and high-school students and encourages them to attend college and pursue a career in science.
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Kathrin Larson, 503-797-4537