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Professor takes science beyond DSU classroom

June 5, 2015

Dakota State University professor Dr. Barbara Szczerbinska is used to sharing her vast knowledge of physics with others. She teaches courses such as university physics, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, classical mechanics, thermodynamics, statistical physics and cosmology to students at the university. She also collaborates with DSU students on research projects related to neutrino physics. Even with all those responsibilities, Szczerbinska doesn’t stop her passion for sharing knowledge with others once she leaves campus. She has filled her so-called “spare” time with ways to bring science to both the young and old alike.

Two programs that have started with ideas from Szczerbinska are the annual “It’s All About Science Festival” and “Science Happy Hour.” Targeting two different audiences, these events aim to bring exploration of all things science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to the public.

In cooperation with Sanford Research, the Science Festival is entering its fourth year at the Sanford Research Center with over 4,500 children projected to participate this year. With almost 50 hands-on activities, demonstration and exhibits from student groups, educators and STEM industries, the Festival draws both children and families alike. Area students are able to share their own projects with a poster competition, schools presentation or K-8 science fair project exposition.

In addition, there will be two performances throughout the day including, “The Dancing Scientist”, Jeffrey Vinokur, who combines science demonstrations with hip-hop music, and Steve Wolf, full-time movie stunt and special effect coordinator, who will reveal how over 100 key STEM concepts are the basis of all movie stunts and special effects. There also will be a live broadcast from the Sanford Underground Research Facility.

“Science Festival is a truly family oriented celebration and exploration of science that appeals to all age groups. It’s a great feeling to know that It’s All about Science became an annual event that brings together thousands of people excited about science and technology!” said Szczerbinska.

With a more adult crowd in mind, Szczerbinska wanted to expand the festival experience beyond a young demographic. She worked to partner the Festival team with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) to create the “Science Happy Hour: Tap into Science” event for adults over 21. Combining learning with snacks and drinks, the event explores everything from beer making and edible science to dark matter and cyber security. Participants are able to buy a wrist band and obtain a map at either starting point, the SF Area Community Foundation or CNA Building Lobby, and enjoy a self-paced tour of over 20 exhibits from local scientists. DSU will also be represented by Dr. Dale Droge, professor of biology, and Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, assistant professor of information assurance/forensics, as they will be sharing their expertise with participants.

“The Science Happy Hour will allow the adults to explore multiple science and technology exhibits in a very unique and relaxing setting. We hope that participants will not only get excited about science but also be able pass this excitement on to their children and grandchildren,” said Szczerbinska.

Even after these events have finished, Szczerbinska isn’t done for the summer. She will head off to Deadwood, S.D. for her next project, the Center for Theoretical Underground Physics and Related Areas (CETUP*). The theoretical physicist will help coordinate sessions on dark matter, neutrino physics and the Particle Physics and Cosmology conference. The two sessions and conference will bring scientists from all over the world to the state to talk about the latest physics experiments and advancements. With CETUP* winding down in the middle of July, Szczerbinska will then travel back to campus to start preparing for a busy fall semester at DSU.

It’s All About Science Festival: Saturday, June 13, 2015, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Sanford Research Center, 2301 E. 60th St. N., Sioux Falls.
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Science Happy Hour: Tap into Science: Friday, June 12, 2015, 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. starting at either Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, 200 N Cherapa Place, or CNA Building Lobby, 100 S Reid St.
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