Zipangani M. Vokhiwa: Why I Joined
As a young boy in Malawi, I remember loving the nature studies class, where we would do simple experiments such as placing a bean in a container with water. Three days later, we’d come back to examine what had happened to the bean. My fascination with science only grew as I continued my education in Malawi and then in America, where I earned a Ph.D. in Range Ecology from Colorado State University.
But, despite my own interest in science, I am often reminded that all the scientific theories and practical implications in the world won’t do any good unless one can convince people to use and apply that information. I learned the value of engaging the public first-hand when I worked with local farmers in Malawi on a Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) project. The program allowed members of the public, even those who did not have a college degree, to be part of science, to understand how science affects them and their community. The farmers were able to make selections of sorghum and cowpea varieties that had characteristics that were suited to their taste and local environments. The varieties were adopted by the Government of Malawi as a result of this research project.
As a judge at Intel ISEF, I also had my eyes opened to the reminder that the next generation of scientists is already contributing to the scientific community. As a member of the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR), I am a strong advocate of incorporating scientific research activities into science classes.
This is why I joined Society for Science & the Public earlier this year. I am proud to be a member of an organization that not only advocates for scientific research, but for the engagement of the public. We need everyone to help move scientific solutions beyond the lab and into the world.
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