Ainissa Ramirez, Ph.D., (@blkgrlphd) is a science evangelist who is passionate about getting the general public excited about science. Before taking on this calling, she was an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Yale University. Technology Review, the magazine of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), named her as one of the worldâ€™s 100 Top Young Innovators for her contributions in transforming technology. She has been profiled by the New York Times, Discover and, Fortune magazines, ESPN, CNN, and numerous scientific magazines (Scientific American, R&D Magazine, Materials Today, and Chemical & Engineering News).
Ramirez received her training in materials science and engineering from Brown University (Sc.B.) and Stanford University (Ph.D.). Prior to working at Yale, she was a research scientist at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, in Murray Hill, N.J., where she did award-winning research. She has authored more than 50 technical papers, holds six patents, and has presented her work worldwide. She has lectured at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), MIT, and Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, Northwestern, and Stanford universities. She also founded a company called Adhera Technologies to commercialize one of her inventions.
A staunch advocate for improving the publicâ€™s understanding of science, her talk at TED on the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education generated widespread enthusiasm. At Yale, she was the director of the award-winning science lecture series for children called Science Saturdays, and she hosts two popular-science video series called Material Marvels and Science Xplained.
She speaks nationally on the importance of making science fun and has served as a science advisor to the American Film Institute, WGBHâ€™s Nova, and several science museums. She has written as a science correspondent for Time magazineâ€™s Washington, D.C., bureau. Currently, she is co-authoring a book with Allen St. John on the science behind football, called Newtonâ€™s Football, for Random House.
Areas of Expertise
Science Communication, Nanotechnology, Brainstorming, Material Science and Engineering, Idea Generating, Explaining complex topics, making science fun, inspiring kids with science, Science Scripts, Science Advising for Hollywood/Television
An idea worth spreading
To get more kids excited about science, we need science rock stars. One idea is to create local TED science shows for kids that showcase fun science lectures. We have one at Yale called Science Saturdays (www.sciencesaturdays.org), which has been very popular; my goal is to have one in each metropolis. If you want to get kids excited about science, show them cool people doing it.
Another way to teach science is through music. Imagine kids reciting lyrics of rap and hip-hop songs that are about science! Science teachers would have easier lives.
We should bring back bookmobiles as a local hub for kids in urban areas. By adding computers to them, kids can make movies, music and other creative projects, which can be stealthily used to teach science & technology.
We need more open science labs and tinkering spaces so that people can do experiments and make things without the barrier of resources. Such open innovation spaces would re-charge our spirits and our economy.
I'm passionate about
Getting kids excited about science by finding some idea that inspires them to want to learn. Opening science learning to all.
Talk to me about
Science, STEM education, Writing/publishing, giving a TED talk, being a geek
People don't know I'm good at
stand-up comedy. I performed a stand-up comedy show at Caroline's on Broadway.
My TED story
My invitation to give a TED talk is miraculous. I am in the midst of a challenging career change from the hallowed halls of academia to finding work that is more meaningful to me. My path is to become a science popularizer in the tradition of Neil Tyson and Bill Nye. The transition has had ups and downs and some days I wish I could go back to the academic treadmill, which was killing my spirit. I forged ahead anyway towards my life's work to get kids (of all ages) excited about science and started a short video series (www.materialmarvels.com). On a lark, I sent my videos to TED with very low expectations. As fate would have it, I was invited to give a TED talk.
My TED story? Well, my story has just begun but it consists of taking a leap of faith towards the things that excite you. The path will make itself apparent for my fellow map-less travelers. And, as our old friend Robert Frost said "I took the [road] less traveled by. And that has made all the difference."