October 22, 2018 | Eric Verbeten

What began as a simple hashtag, #scienceathon, has become a global trend on social media. This year marks the 2nd annual Science-A-Thon, a campaign to raise awareness of the role of science in society and highlight the daily work of scientists themselves. During the week of October 15, scientists from all disciplines, including several from the UW-Madison Space Science and Engineering Center (SSEC), shared photos and stories of their day-to-day tasks, whether from a desk, out in the field or on the road to a conference.

Students from Sun Prairie High School engage in a Q&A session with AOS professor Tracey Holloway and Michelle Yun, a chemical engineer and attorney at Alliant Energy in Madison, WI. Credit: Amy Reid

The Earth Science Women’s Network, a non-profit dedicated to supporting scientists of today and welcoming the scientists of tomorrow, established Science-A-Thon, to better connect those two communities. This year, co-founder and Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Tracey Holloway organized a special outreach event and hosted a group of 10 students from Sun Prairie High School near Madison, Wisconsin. While visiting SSEC, the students had the opportunity to learn and ask questions about atmospheric research, hurricanes and satellite meteorology from NOAA researcher Tim Schmit, Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) scientist Sarah Griffin, and SSEC Director Brad Pierce.

“The tour with the Sun Prairie students took the mentoring and role model ethos of Science-A-Thon, and brought it to life with a short tour of SSEC and a round-table discussion,” writes Holloway. “Science-A-Thon is part of our initiative to bring this kind of advice and community to a wider audience, so it was really exciting to connect with this great group of high school women.”

CIMSS scientist Sarah Griffin speaks to a group of Sun Prairie High School students about hurricane research during a Science-A-Thon tour at SSEC. Credit: SSEC

According to Holloway, the 2018 Science-A-Thon nearly doubled the number of scientists from last year to more than 270 participants. Plans are underway to continue to grow the five-day event and to gain more outside sponsorship. Holloway also hopes to get more schools involved early on in the planning stages and to incorporate the event into lesson planning.

“We’ve done a lot with the generous support from this year’s sponsors and participants, and next year we’d like to take it up a level,” she says.

By Eric Verbeten