Sharing BIG IDEAS @ScienceStowers

In 2018, the Stowers Institute launched a new lecture series, BIG IDEAS @ScienceStowers, with talks by two dynamic and creative scientists. The lecture series was developed to meet the greater Kansas City community’s increasing curiosity and interest in science by presenting cutting-edge and provocative scientific ideas in an engaging and accessible way.

Like excited concert-goers, guests streamed into the Stowers auditorium as vivid scientific images and the faces of researchers panned across the stage screen. As the lights dimmed and the spotlights brightened, voices hushed. Guests were greeted by Stowers Investigator Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, PhD. Sánchez Alvarado exuded his own excitement as he described the launch of the lecture series that is designed to inspire a thirst for scientific knowledge and illustrate the roles that scientific discovery plays in both our lives and our communities.

“Our Institute’s great convening power attracts the very best scientists. What better way to share the excitement and importance of science in our lives than to have our visitors share their creative and daring scientific ideas in an engaging and accessible way with the greater Kansas City community?”

The Institute’s inaugural guest was Manu Prakash, PhD. With a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering and a PhD from MIT, Prakash leads a curiosity-driven research group in the department of bioengineering at Stanford University. Prakash is an inventor at heart and designs and builds tools that address unmet needs in global health. One of those tools is a low-cost field microscope that allows communities around the world to observe the microcosmos. Prakash shared the process of identifying challenges, designing solutions, and deploying these tools to enable open-ended scientific curiosity and inquiries in communities around the world.

By connecting the dots between science education, biodiversity mapping, environmental monitoring, and global health, Prakash explained the role of “simple” tools in advancing access to science and better human health in a resource-limited world.

The second event featured Ahna Skop, PhD, an artist and professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. There, she runs a lab that investigates the molecules and mechanisms that control how cells divide during embryonic development. Recognizing that scientists’ curiosity often originates in observing the beauty of nature, Skop curates art exhibits that promote the beauty of science.

Throughout her lecture, Skop illustrated how creativity is a driving force in art as well as science and recounted how she is empowering creativity in the classroom to the benefit of students, particularly those who struggle with standard approaches to learning.

More BIG IDEAS @ScienceStowers lectures are planned for 2019.