Washington, DC—Carnegie biogeochemist Marilyn Fogel, developmental biologist Marnie Halpern, and astronomer Stella Kafka were selected from over 500 applicants to be USA Science & Engineering Festival “Nifty Fifty” lecturers. The first USA Science & Engineering Festival is being held October 10 through the 24th in Washington, D.C., to inspire Americans about science. According to the late Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, by the end of 2010, 90% of the world's scientists and engineers with advanced degrees will live in Asia; 80% of people trained in the advanced physical sciences in the United States are from abroad. The United States is losing ground in these critical areas.

As part of this festival, Lockheed Martin is sponsoring the Nifty Fifty program, which brings some of the United States’ most interesting and tractable scientists into high schools in the D.C. area. Nifty Fifty winners are talking to various middle and high school students across the Washington, D.C., area this month to inspire the next generation to pursue science. “The winners were chosen for their differing fields, talents, divergent backgrounds and ages, and ability to convey the importance of science to our nation’s future.”

Marilyn Fogel, of Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory, presented a lecture entitled “If there is life on Mars, how would we know it?” at Woodson High School in Fairfax, VA. The lecture was based on fieldwork conducted in Svalbard, Norway, where her group has developed a Mars analogue site for life detection. She also discussed topics related to geobiology, a field that studies how living organisms have influenced the evolution of Earth and vice versa. Students at Woodson High School were interested to learn how a scientist chooses an interdisciplinary field like bio-geo-chemistry and becomes an expert in that field.

Marnie Halpern, of the Department of Embryology, will speak to Gaithersburg High School students in Montgomery County, MD, on October 21st about her work using the zebrafish model to explore how differences arise between the left and right sides of the brain.

Stella Kafka is a postdoctoral researcher at Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.

The Nifty Fifty scientists were selected from entries submitted by more than 100 professional science & engineering societies, including The National Academy of Engineering, AAAS, the American Chemical Society, Society for Developmental Biology, and American Women in Science; 100 universities and colleges; 75 informal science outreach organizations; and more than 25 corporations.

In addition to the Nifty Fifty, Carnegie scientists will staff booth 644, on October 23 and 24, during the two-day science EXPO on the mall. Carnegie is among the more than 500 science and engineering organizations participating in the event and is one of the original festival partners. Carnegie hosted a teacher workshop with the Society for Developmental Biology and Carnegie scientist Steven Farber's bioEYES Project on October 11 (http://www.bioeyes.org/). There will be a Kavli Lecture with the Royal Norwegian Embassy on October 21 at the Carnegie Institution’s administration building and a public panel of Nobel scientists on October 22 sponsored by the Society for Developmental Biology (www.sdbonline.org), at Carnegie as well. For more information see www.usasciencefestival.org

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