CESTEMER Conference Brings Artists, Scientists, Educators, and Communicators Together

Have you ever wanted to go to Hollywood? If you’re a researcher at Virginia Tech, it’s possible you’ve missed your opportunity to star in a big film–but you may be able to get involved in another way. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has launched a new program that matches scientists with Hollywood directors and producers to provide information and guidance during screenwriting and production.

The Science and Entertainment Exchange is the brainchild of Ann Merchant, acting director of the office of communications for the NAS, who spoke in Chicago this fall at the CESTEMER (Cultivating Ensembles in STEM Education and Research) conference. The program maintains an ever-expanding list of science and engineering experts who are willing to collaborate on film and television projects.

“It’s not always about accuracy,” Merchant explained. “But it is about inspiration, imagination, imagery, and introduction.” She is passionate about having directors cast as TV and movie scientists actors who are not “male, pale, and stale” so that viewers have a diversity of role models.

Center for Communicating Science associate director Carrie Kroehler learned about the Science and Entertainment Exchange when she traveled to the CESTEMER conference September 15-17 to facilitate an interactive session titled “Improvisational Games for collaboration: Risk, fail, celebrate, and continue!”

The three-day conference brought together about 70 performance and visual artists, scientists, educators, and science communicators. Its theme this year, “Cultivating Extraordinary Science Communities: Re-imagining Arts, Humanities, and STEM,” was brought to life with sessions on writing science, STEAM summer camps, science through story, stage chemistry, science on the stage, and much more.

Just getting started on your own movie, and need a consultant? Dial 1-800-NEEDSCI. If instead you’d like to serve as a science or engineering consultant for the NAS Science and Entertainment Exchange, go to the website and fill out the “Get Involved” form. Graduate students welcome!

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