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04/05/2007 07:00:00

Caltech Observatory Receives Science Education Award

PASADENA, Calif.- The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Hanford, Washington, which was created by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and funded by the National Science Foundation, has received a science education award.

Washington State LASER (Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform) announced the recipients of the first-ever Science Education Advocate Awards.

The awards go to five individuals, organizations, and project teams who exhibited outstanding advocacy for science education in the state of Washington by promoting the importance of science education among the general public and/or the education system.

"The intent of the Science Education Advocate Awards is to recognize and raise public awareness of advocacy across the broadest possible spectrum of science education efforts," said Dennis Schatz, vice president for education and exhibits at Pacific Science Center and co-director of LASER. "Awardees are being recognized for their advocacy efforts--not necessarily their work as science educators. We want to stress how important strong community support and advocacy is to developing science literacy in our state."

Efforts at all levels of science education--including early learner, K-12, vocational, undergraduate, graduate, adult, and informal/public science education--were eligible for consideration.

The five awardees receive $5,000 each, which they can give to the not-for-profit organization or public education entity of their choice for use in science education. The award was funded by the Boeing Company.

Recipients will be recognized at local awards ceremonies to highlight their achievements among their peers and within their communities.

LIGO develops and collaborates in programs to promote science that are tailored to meet the needs of different ages, cultures, and academic circumstances. In these endeavors, the observatory partners with formal and informal education organizations and community groups whenever possible. LIGO's contributions to these programs emphasize the project's role in an international effort to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves.

For K-12 groups, LIGO offered field trips to about 900 children in 2006. In addition to learning about LIGO's search for gravitational waves, student guests interact with a dozen hands-on exhibits related to wave behavior and gravity. The exhibits are correlated to Washington State science standards. Nearly a dozen groups of science and education college students also visited in 2006.

LIGO also hosts field trips sponsored by regional chapters of educational programs aimed at encouraging low-income and minority students to explore science and math.

LIGO's $5,000 donation will be awarded to the LIGO Hanford Observatory to support transportation expenses for field trips to the observatory.

"LIGO is pleased to be part of NSF's investment in America's future, both in science and education," said Frederick J. Raab, head of the LIGO Hanford Observatory. "Through the expertise of our local institutional partners, the enthusiasm of our community members and the dedication of our staff, we have had the privilege to put some magic into the lives of thousands of residents of our region. One day, you have the idea to organize a bilingual astronomy event for our Latino families and, presto, the local astronomy club supplies telescopes and the local college contributes an interpreter for every astronomer we can muster. Whether helping us provide physics toys for kids at the Cinco de Mayo celebration, supporting visits by schools to LIGO or providing volunteers for our Perseid meteor parties, we can always count on our community partners to make it work."

In addition to LIGO Hanford, Caltech alumnus and visiting associate in biology Leroy Hood, and his colleague Valerie Logan, were also recipients of the award. Hood, who earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1960 and a PhD in biochemistry in 1968 from Caltech, is president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. Logan is community liaison and fund developer for the Center for Inquiry Science at the Institute for Systems Biology.

In 1992, Hood established the University of Washington's Department of Molecular Biotechnology. While Logan and Hood were at the university, they established several education reform programs, including the Partnership for Inquiry-based Science and the Family Science program.

In 2000, Hood left the University of Washington and started the independent, nonprofit, Institute for Systems Biology (ISB).

"Within ISB, we encourage our faculty members to engage in advocacy and programmatic activities related to K-12 science education," said Hood. "I have always believed that academics have four major responsibilities: scholarship, education, transfer of knowledge to society, and community leadership."

Their $5,000 donation will be awarded to the K-12 science education program at the Institute for Systems Biology.

### Contact: Jill Perry Caltech Media Relations (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

Wendy Malloy Pacific Science Center (206) 443-2879 wendy_malloy@pacsci.org

Visit the Caltech Media Relations website at http://pr.caltech.edu/media.

Written by Jill Perry