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By October 7, 2019No Comments


Dear STEM Ambassadors and community partners,

Welcome to the October issue of the STEMAP newsletter! We are pleased to share this month’s STEM Ambassador activities and opportunities to stay involved in public engagement.

Members of the 2017 STEMAP cohort could be found in several community venues this month. Pratiti Tagore delivered her second presentation on waterwise landscaping to inmates at the Salt Lake County Jail. Ariadne Penalva discussed brain health and aging with participants at the Liberty Senior Center. Lauren Williams also visited a local senior center. She spent an afternoon at the Magna Kennecott Center sharing her work in cognition and neural science. The evening after Lauren’s presentation, the STEMAP team hosted a celebration recognizing the Ambassadors and community partners who make such engagement activities possible. We are grateful for your support.

Though the 2017 cohort has come to a close, STEMAP still intends to continue to promote public engagement opportunities. Look for us on October 23rd at the SciComm Fair hosted by the University of Utah Graduate School. The STEMAP team and several Ambassadors will be there along with Joe Palca and Madeline Sofia from NPR’s Joe’s Big Idea!

STEMAP will also be offering limited public engagement opportunities and consultations this fall. Contact us for more information!

Thank you,

Nalini Nadkarni, Director
Caitlin Weber, Program Manager
Megan Young, Program Coordinator

STEMAP Annual Celebration

Ambassadors, staff, and community partners at the Annual Celebration.
On October 5th, the STEM Ambassador Program commemorated the achievements of the 2017 and 2016 Ambassadors at the 2nd Annual STEM Ambassador Celebration.

Thanks to all the Ambassadors and community partners who made this year a success!

STEMAP 2017 Recap

The STEM Ambassador Program would not be possible without the dedication of the scientists and community partners who participate. Thanks to their hard work, STEMAP has trained 40 Ambassadors in public engagement and reached roughly 1,500 people in 29 unique community venues in our first 2 years!

Engagement programs varied widely and included:

  • microbiologist, Julia McGonigle, partnering with a chef at Harmon’s cooking school to discuss the role of microbiology in preparing fermented foods during a cooking class,
  • rock climber and geologist, David Wheatley, partnering with Splore to discuss the geology behind a popular climbing route in the Cottonwoods,
  • virologist, Kelsey Cone, hosting a zombie science night at Watchtower Cafe complete with a live-action mystery game where participants searched for the cause of a viral zombie outbreak, and
  • ecologist, Jordan Herman, partnering with Argentina’s Best Empanadasto create a display in the restaurant about the birds of Argentina.

Thank you to the Ambassadors for preparing and delivering engagement events and to all the community partners for opening their doors to STEMAP!

Check out more STEMAP events on our website!

The connections made by STEM Ambassadors in 2016 and 2017

Interviews and Feedback

STEM Ambassadors may be contacted by our STEMAP team members at Stanford or Inverness Research about your experience with the STEM Ambassador Program; participation is voluntary, and will help us identify the most useful components of our program.

Contact us with any questions you may have.

SciComm Fair

Interested in learning about public engagement opportunities on campus? Check out the SciComm Fair on October 23rd! STEMAP staff and several Ambassadors will be present at this event along with Joe Palca and Madeline Sofia from NPR’s Joe’s Big Idea! We hope to see you there.

Upcoming Engagement Opportunities

Put your STEM Ambassador training to use by participating in the INSPIRE Program! The INSPIRE Program brings science lectures and workshops to incarcerated youth and adults in the Salt Lake Valley, who do not have access to informal science education facilities such as zoos or museums. There are several openings for guest speakers at the Salt Lake County Jail, Draper State Prison, and secure youth facilities. All STEM disciplines are welcome. INSPIRE staff at the University of Utah will guide you in following necessary security procedures, provide advice on presentation materials, and accompany you to your presentation.


Scientists who have participated in INSPIRE often remark on what a positive experience they had. This is a great time-efficient way to improve your public engagement skills and give back to the community!


Contact us if you are interested in working with INSPIRE.

New STEMAP Team Member- Welcome Allyson Jelitto!

Allyson Jelitto
The STEM Ambassador Program is pleased to welcome Allyson Jelitto to our team! Allyson will be assisting with the STEMAP newsletter and administrative tasks to keep STEMAP running smoothly!

Ally is a Junior at the university majoring in Environmental and Organismal Biology. She is also pursuing a Modern Dance minor.

Ally is interested in all things outdoors and hopes to use her continuing knowledge in biology to work on conserving the wild world we live in.

In her free time, Ally enjoys hiking, biking, dancing, and learning new things.

Jordan Herman at Argentina’s Best Empanadas

Before leaving for her field site in Argentina, STEM Ambassador and biologist, Jordan Herman    partnered with the owner of Argentina’s Best Empanadas to create a tabletop display about Argentina’s ovenbirds. Stop by the restaurant for a snack and some science!

Pratiti Tagore at Salt Lake County Jail

Ambassador Pratiti Tagore
STEM Ambassador and Urban Planner, Pratiti Tagore, gave a second presentation on water conservation practices to inmates in the horticulture training program at the Salt Lake County Jail. Pratiti’s passion for water conservation stems from growing up in India where she witnessed the impacts of water shortages. Pratiti now studies water conservation practices employed in Utah households. Utah is the second driest state in the United States yet our per person water use is third highest—with much of this water being used outdoors.

During her presentation, Pratiti discussed actions being taken to reduce outdoor water use, such as xeriscaping and installing more efficient irrigation systems. The horticulture industry has a significant role to play in conserving Utah’s water. Knowledgeable professionals are needed to install and maintain water-wise landscapes and efficient irrigation systems. Pratiti encouraged inmates in the Jail’s horticulture training program to continue to build their skills in these areas and promote outdoor water conservation should they choose to continue working in the horticulture industry.

Thank you to the Salt Lake County Jail for hosting Pratiti!

Science Tattoo Project: Wearing science on your sleeve

Help connect the public to science through a mutual love of tattoos! If you have a science related tattoo, contact Ambassador Dara Niketic ( to become a part of the project. Love science tattoos but don’t have one yourself? You can still be involved as a volunteer for a temporary tattoo station, scavenger hunt, and more during the upcoming science tattoo night! Stay tuned for details!

STEM Ambassador Reflections

We are excited to feature several articles from STEM Ambassadors in this month’s newsletter. Read about their engagement experiences below!

Ariadne Penalva at Liberty Senior Center

Ambassador Ariadne Penalva
For my outreach project as a STEM ambassador, I had the opportunity to interact with members of the Liberty Senior Center,providing an informative yet interactive presentation on brain plasticity and the importance of maintaining active. I believe this was a very informative and fun experience, not only for the senior center members, but for me as well.

Upon arriving, I had to adapt to the constraints of the classroom in which the presentation took place, as well as to the constant coming and going of members, which I was interested to learn is common for all activities. Upon arriving I noticed I had a pretty diverse group, divided almost equally between males and females of different ages. What seemed constant among all members were their genuine interest on learning more about the topics I study, specially on how plasticity and birth of new neurons has been shown to continue past childhood. As I encouraged to be interrupted and to be asked questions, a few individuals did so in a pleasingly engaging manner, as well as with a lot of insight and cleverness.  When I was thanked in the end by the residents, I made sure to thank them too, as this experience was certainly as valuable for me as I hope it was for them.

In general, this experience left me with a lot of personal and professional growth as I was encouraged to organize an event on my research topic with a public population I had not engaged with before. It was also a learning experience, as for future events I wish to bring more interactive material in order to get points better across and making the activity seem like a discussion rather than a one-sided presentation. However, I believe the STEM ambassadorship program was an excellent resource for developing my outreach skills, and I will certainly be basing the creation of future outreach events on the lessons that I learned in this great program.

Lauren Williams at Magna Kennecott Senior Center

Ambassador Lauren Williams
I presented at Magna Kennecott Senior Center. Through a series of demonstrations, I highlighted the limitations of our visual attention system. For example, why do we miss obvious things (e.g., a large gorilla) when we are engaged in another task (e.g., counting basketball passes)?

I discussed how these limitations affect radiologists on the job and the ways that cognitive scientists are using their research to help improve medical image interpretation.

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