Inspirational Speakers

In February 2011, the K-12 Committee sponsored a presentation by Nobel Laureate Dr. William Phillips of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) to students, staff, and parents from Walt Whitman, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, and Walter Johnson High Schools, in addition to MIT Alums. The 900 seat B-CC Auditorium was nearly full as Dr. Phillips engaged the audience in a fascinating program titled "Time, Einstein, and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe." He discussed atomic clocks, atomic gases, primary clocks, and related topics in a lively multimedia presentation featuring experimental demonstrations and down-to-earth explanations about some of today's most exciting science. The positive effect on the students was evident by their attention, questions during the Q&A session, discussions in the hallway as they were leaving the event, and feedback from parents when they went home. You can watch a video clip of a similar talk by Dr. Phillips.  

We built on the success of this first Speaker Program by having Dr. Phillips speak to students from McKinley Technical High School in Washington, DC on January 26, 2012. This fulfilled a deep wish of Dr. Phillips, who wanted to present his program to a school composed of mainly minority students in the heart of DC. Again, his dynamic talk inspired the audience of almost 800, many of whom were fascinated by his demonstrations using liquid nitrogen and magnetism. NIST had the entire program video-recorded, a copy of which is available from Ken Gordon, Ph.D.

In a third program arranged by the Initiative, Dr. Phillips spoke to students and alumni at The Potomac School in McLean, Virginia on April 25, 2012. Although the 500-seat auditorium was smaller, the near-capacity audience was just as excited as those at Walt Whitman and McKinley.

As a continuation to this program, the MIT Club of Washington DC organized a fourth talk by Dr. Phillips at Marshall High School in Falls Church, Virginia on October 24, 2013, again to a large and enthusiastic audience.

On May 22, 2013 the Club organized a talk at Walk Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD by Matt and Jessica Staymates, a husband and wife team of analytical chemists from NIST. They spoke on trace analysis for drugs and explosives, and how their careers in science/engineering evolved.

Additionally, Dr. Fred Glave, a member of our Club's K-12 committee has been volunteering as a tutor in eighth grade science classes at Herndon Middle School in Virginia. This is part of a county-wide program sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (Senior Scientists and Engineers Program). During the past two years, Dr. Glave became intrigued by the challenge of how to make science and engineering and a career in STEM more exciting to the students and to further stimulate their curiosity. With the participation of three MIT graduates, a fellow docent at the Library of Congress, and the enthusiastic support of the principal and staff at Herndon Middle School, a one-hour assembly for all eighth grade students was convened at the end of the school year. The result was this video "Science: It's Not What You Expect".

Beyond that, the longer range plan and goal is to add other speakers and schools, and hopefully build this program into regularly held events throughout the DC area. For additional information, please contact Ken Gordon at kengordon@alum.mit.edu.