Local Girls Reach for the Stars during Sally Ride Science Festival

Posted: May 3, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryan Call

Hundreds of middle-school girls will arrive on the Fairfax Campus this Sunday for a day of science and socializing at the Sally Ride Science Festival. This is the third time the festival has come to campus, and attendees can expect a street fair with hands-on experiments along with food and music.

The festival will also feature Discovery Workshops given by local veterinarians, astronomers, microbiologists and engineers, plus workshops for adults that provide advice to parents and teachers on how to support girls’ interests in math and science.

“This is the most fun thing I’ve ever done on this campus,” says Sheryl Beach, associate professor of geography and computational sciences, who is helping to coordinate the festival on Mason’s side. “It is really a magical experience to work with the students, and I’ve heard the same from other participants.”

Beach has recruited several Mason professors, students and alumni to take part in the festival by presenting workshops during the day:

  • “When Genes Misbehave, Can Computers Help?” by Hena Ramay, graduate student in the bioinformatics program.

  • “Systematics: The Science of Biological Diversity” by Andrea Weeks, assistant professor of environmental science and policy.

  • “A Day at the Vet’s” by Kim Blackwell, associate professor of computational sciences and informatics.

  • “Solar Sunspots” by Christina Nestlerode, candidate in the Physical Sciences PhD program.

  • “Extremophiles” by Muffarah Jahangeer, candidate in the Physical Sciences PhD program.

  • “Muscles and Bones: Cutting through the Fat” by Kristy Garnet, candidate in the Environmental Science and Public Policy PhD program.

  • “All About Floodplains!” by Judith Buchino, candidate in the Environmental Science and Public Policy PhD program.

Participants will also have the opportunity to hear astronaut Kathryn Thornton, who will give this year’s keynote address. While at NASA, Thornton logged more than 900 hours in space. She nowserves as associate dean for graduate programs at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Designed for girls in grades five through eight, the day’s events begin at 11 a.m. All participants must register in advance. Admission is $18, and includes lunch and all festival activities and materials. The festival ends at 4:15 p.m. with prize drawings.

Sally Ride was the first U.S. woman astronaut in space. After leaving NASA, she took a position at the University of California, San Diego, as a professor of physics. Ride founded Sally Ride Science while on a leave of absence from the university. Her company strives to encourage young women to pursue interests in science, math and technology.

“This age group is a key time to get girls involved in and excited about math and science. We want the girls to have a chance to meet a woman scientist and perhaps imagine themselves in that role,” says Beach, who will conduct a workshop at the festival titled,“Water, Water Everywhere: Are These Drops Safe to Drink?”

“It is also a great opportunity for us to show our research and our facilities, and show these girls what Mason has to offer.”

The Sally Ride Science Festival is sponsored by Northrop Grumman Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline. To register, call 800-561-5161 or visit www.SallyRideFestivals.com.

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