‘Science Guy’ Nye draws crowd to MU symposium on science communication

People of all ages filled the 1,755-seat Jesse Auditorium to listen to the scientist, engineer, comedian, author and inventor Bill Nye speak on Saturday, March 15, at 10 a.m. Even more people overflowed into Bush and Monsanto Auditorium to watch Nye speak through a live feed of the presentation. Nye was one of eight speakers invited to speak at the MU Life Sciences and Society Symposium entitled “Decoding Science,” which took place March 10-15. The entire 2014 Life Sciences Symposium focused on the improvement of scientists’ communication with the public.

“We all know that over the last many decades the life sciences have had a profound impact on us,” Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said while opening for Nye on Saturday morning. “So what better time is there for us to be here together talking about the communication of science?”

The chancellor presented Nye with their mutual accessory of choice – a bowtie. Truman and numerous audience members also sported Nye’s signature look.

Nye emphasized that we are living in a time where science is considered cool again. The Big Bang Theory is the most-watched show on television. The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is the most-visited museum in the world.

“We have to take this optimism – this passion about science – and change the world,” Nye said.

Nye drew attention to the fact that the world’s population has more than doubled in his lifetime, and it’s putting stress on the Earth’s thin atmosphere. He called young people to action, telling them to use their brains and experience the world of discovery.

“Think of things we haven’t thought of!” Nye said.

Timothy Foreman, a senior biology major, is currently enrolled in the honors course called Decoding Science, taught by the director of the Bond Life Sciences Center, Jack Schultz, and his wife, Heidi Appel. The class is centered around the 2014 Life Sciences Symposium. Foreman attended the Nye speaking event on Saturday as a requirement for the class.

“Nye is a great entertainer and can do it well,” Foreman said. “I think a lot of his success has to do with a gut feeling of knowing what to do and say to ease tension.”

Foreman said he was disappointed that Nye did not stay after the event to interact with students as his message was directed toward young people. However, Nye did allot time for questions at the end of his presentation. He answered many questions and even gave out a few high-fives.

To see pictures and quotes from the event, search the Twitter hashtag #DecodeSci.

Elizabeth Johnson

About the Author Elizabeth Johnson

I am pursuing a degree in science and agricultural journalism with an emphasis in agricultural marketing. I hope to work in corporate public relations post graduation. I have a passion for communications and anything and everything Mizzou. My dad is a CAFNR alumnus with a degree in agricultural economics, and my mom graduated from the College of Education. Both of my parents grew up on family operated farms and in rural agricultural communities. This was the main factor in my decision to pursue a degree from CAFNR. I wrote for Corner Post during Fall 2013 and had no writing experience prior to that. I now have a new appreciation for investigative journalism and am excited to continue practicing it.