NSF Science & Engineering Messengers

America’s Science Idol: Announcing our Contestants!

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Our original call for contestants for “America’s Science Idol”–this coming Friday at the AAAS annual meeting in Boston–led to a large number of applications. It would have been nice if we could have had several rounds of competition, like in the real Idol–but for this event, that just wasn’t possible.

So we narrowed the applicant pool to 6 contestants–the lucky (or brave) scientists below:

Gillian Bowser2Gillian Bowser (@gwsn2012).  A native of Brooklyn, Gillian is currently a research scientist at Colorado State University, where she leads interdisciplinary teams from multiple universities to do large‐scale network analyses of women in sustainability. Before that, she served for 11 years as a wildlife biologist at Yellowstone National Park studying insects, bison, and rodents. She has also worked on desert tortoises, habitat modeling, and military overflight issues; and has worked in the director’s office of the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.

Gillian’s career represents a nexus between art and science. She started her career as an art major attending LaGuardia High School of the Arts, and has had several art shows and one solo ceramic sculpture exhibition.

???????????????????????????????Tom Di Liberto (@TDiLiberto). Born and raised on Long Island, Tom has been fascinated by the weather since he was a young child. Currently, he’s a meteorologist at the Climate Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, forecasting the weather for Africa, Central America, Hispaniola, and Central Asia with a focus on weather hazards that could affect food security. In addition, Tom conducts research on the use of satellite-derived rainfall estimates in these regions.

Tom earned his Master’s in Meteorology from Stony Brook University, where his thesis included research on storm surges affecting the New York metropolitan region. His research group’s studies took on a whole new level of importance during the past year due to Hurricane Sandy.

In his spare time, Tom is a devoted foodie who is currently learning how to make cheese. When he is not experimenting in the kitchen or trying to find the next great restaurant, he loves to follow his hometown sports teams: the Mets, Giants, Knicks, and Islanders.

Im1Dan Gareau (@laser_beam). Dan received  B.S. degree in electrical engineering with minors in physics and music from the University of Vermont in 1999. During his work-study program he designed and built an opto-mechanical myofibril force transducer. During graduate studies, he received his M.S. degree in electrical engineering from the Oregon Graduate Institute of Science and Technology, Ph.D. degree in biomedical engineering from the Oregon Health and Science University, and graduated the Biomedical Optics Program with the highest honors.

In 2005, he joined Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as a postdoctoral research fellow researching line-scanning and multimodal confocal microscopy and he is currently an Instructor in Clinical Investigation at the Rockefeller University. Dan has been published in the Journals of Biomedical Optics, Surgical Research, Investigative Dermatology, Microscopy, the British Journal of Dermatology, Optics Letters, Lasers in Surgery and Medicine and the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, and is also a rock star (facebook.com/ScienceGroove).

Hahnenberger_Sedona (1)Maura Hahnenberger (@Maura_Science). Maura is a PhD Candidate and associate instructor at the University of Utah
Department of Atmospheric Sciences, where her research focuses on the natural and human causes of bad air quality, including dust storms and inversions. Maura has a passion for getting students involved in STEM education and has previously been an NSF GK-12 fellow, bringing scientific research into elementary and middle school classrooms.

Maura has also been known to integrate her talents in the arts with science and recently entered the Dance Your PhD competition, with an interpretive dance about Utah dust storms that she filmed with her 20 closest friend in the salt flats around the Great Salt Lake. In her spare time Maura enjoys tending her chicken flock and garden, skiing and rock climbing in the mountains, and whitewater rafting in the deserts.

Jenna JadinJenna Jadin (@JJadin). Jenna is currently serving out an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship as a Climate Advisor in the Office of the Chief Scientist at the US Department of Agriculture, where she focuses on climate and biodiversity policy issues, as well as climate communication.  Her commitment to climate communication grew out of a previous position she held as Science Communicator at the US Global Change Research Program.

She is also the host of Nerd Nite DC, a popular science communication event held at a DC music venue where scientists and other experts give entertaining presentations on their studies or other nerdy obsessions to a sold-out and slightly drunk audience. She is an expert in behavioral ecology and evolution, having studied Hawaiian cricket sex for her PhD.  Yes, that meant she got to spend a lot of time working in Hawaii.  Unfortunately, though, her time there was often spent getting chased by wild pigs through the rainforest rather than on the beach.

JoshuaSchroederJoshua Schroeder (@astrophysically). Joshua  is finishing his PhD Dissertation research at Columbia University in the Astronomy Department, and is currently on a Predoctoral Fellowship visit to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His research focuses on so-called “black widow” pulsars, which are discovered using the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, in consort with a worldwide collaboration of radio telescopes. These pulsar systems contain rapidly rotating neutron stars, combined with heated and physically distorted low-mass companion stars.

Before coming to Columbia University, Joshua taught physics and astronomy at Harold Washington Community College in Chicago for two years. He received his Masters of Science in Astrophysics and Planetary Science from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2005 and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University in 2003.

Wish Gillian, Tom, Dan, Maura, Jenna, and Joshua luck! And if you want to see them compete, here are the details:


Workshop at 
AAAS 2013 Annual Meeting

1-2 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15, 2013
Room 205, Hynes Convention Center – Boston, MA

Note: Tomorrow, we’ll be posting a much more boring (but also important) item about the *rules* of the competition and the judging criteria.


Written by nsfmessengers

February 11, 2013 at 8:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. […] Rules: The six contestants will present on a scientific topic of their choosing, for no more than three minutes. This will be […]

  2. […] thing (what, you’re busy?), I’ll cut to the chase and share a few conclusions. First, the six scientists who participated were not only good sports, they all brought a lot of passion and sincerity to […]

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