Lawrence Hall of Science, 50 years: 1968-2018; University of California, Berkeley
Dr. France Córdova

On November 5, the Hall hosted a special event featuring as its keynote speaker Dr. France Córdova, Director of the US National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Córdova spoke about innovative education and public outreach projects that help to broaden the impact of NSF-funded research.

The NSF is a major supporter of research in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics throughout the United States. By 2018, UC Berkeley had received some 500 active awards from the NSF, totaling approximately $490 million in funding. The event provided UC Berkeley faculty and researchers an invaluable opportunity to engage with Dr. Córdova and to meet new colleagues who are using their NSF funds to engage with public understanding of science in creative ways.

“I’m really hoping people are able to connect with all the great work happening on campus,” said Rena Dorph, Director of the Lawrence Hall of Science, before the event began.

Among other criteria, research proposals submitted to the NSF are peer-reviewed to assess the broader impact of the idea. The NSF requires that the projects it funds have the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired social outcomes. Hoping to gain insights that could make future proposals stronger, members of the multidisciplinary audience at the event had a chance to ask Dr. Córdova questions about how they could articulate and extend the impact of their research.

“Broader impact [opportunities are] all around us, and we don't stop to think about it,” Dr. Córdova said in her speech to the gathered Berkeley researchers.

In addition to the speech and Q&A with Dr. Córdova, the event was a showcase of NSF-funded research conducted at UC Berkeley and right here at the Lawrence Hall of Science, highlighting projects that exemplify the concept of broader impact. The Hall’s featured projects included a hands-on ocean science curriculum for K–12 students; an illustrated children's book about building a robot; a museum exhibit about the CRISPR gene-editing technology pioneered by Berkeley scientist Dr. Jennifer Doudna; and a responsive science curriculum geared around students who are completing simulated coding internships. Other UC Berkeley projects at the showcase included the Girls in Engineering program, the Science at Cal outreach coordination office, and the Youth—Plan, Learn, Act, Now educational strategy for engaging young people in real-world community problems that can be addressed through science and technology—among other innovative projects.

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