One goal of Fermilab’s Education and Public Engagement office is to facilitate interaction and conversation between Fermilab and the public. There are many ways to bring the lab’s science and mission outside the lab. One of the most popular is Ask-a-Scientist, a long-running monthly program that gives the public the opportunity to ask lab staff directly any and all science-related questions.
The Ask-a-Scientist program changed to a virtual format and expanded in late 2020. Part of this expansion involved an opportunity to ask questions of engineers, accelerator operators, people at different stages of their STEM careers, or the lab ecologist, in addition to scientists. This new approach delivers a more holistic view of the lab while highlighting the careers of a more diverse set of lab staff.
Since the virtual program started, it has engaged almost 600 participants from 28 different states and 25 countries. Lectures and tours have featured a wide variety of topics, including Quantum Weirdness, Building Telescopes, the physics behind favorite science demos, a day in the life of an accelerator operator, Muon g-2, MicroBooNE and ecological restoration at Fermilab.
Question-and-answer sessions with the featured speaker follow the lectures, giving participants a chance to hear about the “personalities” of the lab’s particle accelerators, including “If the Booster isn’t happy, no one is happy!” The virtual experience also includes a tour, where attendees can see the experiments and areas discussed in the different talks. Views of the Main Injector, Muon g-2 and MicroBooNE allow them to see and ask questions about the inner workings of the lab’s experiments in a way that is not possible during an in-person event.
The program continues to receive positive reviews each month. Here’s a sample of some recent comments:
- “Thank you for sharing Fermilab and its wonderful experiments like with the neutrino.”
- “Thank you for this amazing event about the muon g-2 result. It is 1 am here, good night, good evening, and good morning.”
- “As always, Fermilab’s lectures are quite informative and amazing. Congrats!”
View the schedule and register for upcoming talks. A playlist of recorded virtual talks is also available.
Are you interested in learning more about this program, or would you like to give a talk or answer questions yourself? Contact Amanda Early at firstname.lastname@example.org.