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  • BRIAN BAER / Special to The Bee

    UC Davis genetics doctoral student Donnelley West delivers an animated explanation of plant biology Saturday at the Discovery Museum Science and Space Center.

  • BRIAN BAER / Special to The Bee

    UC Davis physiology doctoral student Shannamar Dewey talks about blood sugar at the Discovery Museum Science and Space Center.

UC Davis scientists share knowledge with children at museum

Published: Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 - 1:48 pm

It's not every day scientists explain their research to children. But that's what happened Saturday at the Discovery Museum Science and Space Center.

Eleven up-and-coming scientists from UC Davis paid a visit to the Sacramento museum, creating special exhibits to explain their work to grade-school children.

"Scientists are real people," said Sheila Montgomery, a coordinator at the museum. "We're showing kids that you, too, can grow up to be a scientist."

The shortage of U.S. scientists and engineers is nothing new. Apple CEO Tim Cook generated much fanfare when he announced last week that the technology titan would be bringing manufacturing jobs back home, but carefully noted the shortage of workers' technical skills in the country.

"There are skills that are associated with manufacturing that have left the U.S.," Cook told NBC News.

During the White House's annual science fair in February, President Barack Obama said he would like to see more students study science and math.

"When students excel in math and science, they help America compete for the jobs and industries of the future," he said.

On Saturday, the scientists who volunteered their time came from a variety of fields, including genetics, plant biology and food science.

One scientist drew laughter and smiles when she showed the kids how diabetes and blood sugar works.

"When you eat waffles, it becomes sugar," said Shannamar Dewey, 31.

Dewey's exhibit showed how sugar can be a problem when insulin is not present. But before she could finish talking, Julian Martinez, a 9-year-old from Napa asked, "Is sugar bad for you?"

Saturday's event was part of a science communication fellowship funded by the National Science Foundation. The goal is to resolve the communication divide between scientists and the public, said Raymond Burnell, deputy executive director for the Discovery Museum.

Gulustan Ozturk, a native of Turkey, came to the United States three years ago to obtain a doctorate in food science so she could become a professor back home. Her research includes finding new ways to preserve food.

"As I child, I loved food. It is the cure for everything," Ozturk said, explaining what piqued her interest in the field.

Twenty-six-year-old Timothy Kwa from Monterey Park smiled and gestured intensively as he explained the workings of bacteria and blood cells. Kwa's research centers on "what happens when we poke a white blood cell with bacteria or chemicals."

The science communication fellowship has been transformative for Kwa, who aspires one day to be a teacher.

"I love science and I love teaching," he said.

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Read more articles by Richard Chang

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