Brendan Mullan explores innovative ways to communicate astronomy to the public and inspire a new generation of scientists. He won the 2012 U.S. FameLab competition and is a recent Ph.D. graduate from Penn State, where he teaches and develops curriculum for astronomy courses.
Brendan Mullan thinks scientists should reach outto schoolchildren, college undergraduates, folks in the neighborhood, curious Web browsers, and everyone in between. His research tackles some of astrobiologys most complex questions, but his public outreach efforts bring astronomy and astrobiology out of the ivory tower to make science more accessible, engaging, and entertaining.
Astronomy is like the gateway drug of the sciences, says Mullan. Many people are already fascinated by the night sky, space missions, and colorful photos of planets, galaxies, and swirling clouds of interstellar gas. Human beings fundamentally want to connect with some cosmic context greater than themselves. I want to give them that chance.
He believes that inspiring this new generation of scientists is crucial. The 21st-century problems we faceclimate change, sustainability, disease, you name itcan only be ameliorated with 21st-century ideas, aka science.
Mullan's had stars in his eyes since he was ten years old. I went on a school field trip to a planetarium. The lights dimmed, all these bright pinpoints appeared overhead, and I learned about how stars are born, evolve, and die; the mystery of black holes; violent supernovae explosions. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world and decided right there I wanted to know how it all works. I was so fortunate to have access to resources like that; I want to pay it forward to the next generation. What could be more fun and meaningful than sharing the majesty of the cosmos with everyone'
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