Kavli Institute workshop with Alan Alda helps scholars better connect with non-scientists

Learning how to convey complex scientific information to a general audience was the goal of a three-day UChicago workshop that included 60 scientists from the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and elsewhere.

Alan Alda, who became famous as surgeon Hawkeye Pierce in the M*A*S*H television series, led participants through improvisational exercises designed to help scientists make a more direct and personal connection with their audience. Also a director and writer, Alda has a lifelong interest in science, which led him to host Scientific American Frontiers on PBS from 1993 to 2005. Now a visiting professor at Stony Brook University, Alda is a founding member of its Center for Communicating Science, which was renamed in his honor in April 2013.

UChicago’s Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics hosted the workshop last September at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Participants included Argonne Director Eric Isaacs, Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer, along with UChicago leaders Rocky Kolb, dean of the Physical Sciences Division; John Maunsell, director of the Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology and Human Behavior; Matt Tirrell, director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering; and Michael Turner, director of the Kavli Institute. Also participating were Wendy Freedman, director of the Carnegie Observatories in California; and Michelle Larson, president of Chicago’s Adler Planetarium.

Alda, who recently spoke to The New York Times about his interests in science, returned to Chicago on Feb. 15 for the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.