Baratunde Cola Receives 2012 AAAS Early Career Award

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has named Baratunde Cola, an assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, to receive the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science, recognizing “his commitment to an exceptional research career while sharing his passion for science by engaging in creative outreach with teachers and students in underrepresented communities.”

Established in 2010, the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science recognizes the achievements of individual early-career scientists and engineers who have demonstrated significant contributions to public engagement activities while simultaneously pursuing a research career. Cola will receive the prize at an awards ceremony on February 15 at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts.

In particular, “Baratunde Cola has an impressive scientific record for one so early in his career, while at the same time engaging in substantial public outreach,” said Tiffany Lohwater, director of meetings and public engagement at AAAS. “His collaborative work with K-12 teachers to create broadly dispersed education materials in the fields of nanotechnology and energy conservation, from hands-on engineering competitions to nanotechnology-inspired art displays, is commended.”

AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of the journal Science, commended Cola for his efforts as a champion for the scientific enterprise. “Going above and beyond his laudable research career, Dr. Cola shares his passion for science and engineering with a diversity of public audiences,” Leshner said. “He is an exceptional role model for the next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Cola has focused on public engagement on many fronts, working to inspire K-12 students and their teachers to learn about the latest research in nano- and energy technologies. He has formed new partnerships with teachers in many school districts to engage with hundreds of high school students, working with teachers to develop nanotechnology-focused lesson plans, and inspired art students and teachers to produce a nanotechnology-inspired public art display. He also negotiated to attain a tabletop scanning electron microscope for a science classroom at a high minority, low-income school and developed a hands-on engineering design competition to explore the fundamentals of heat transfer.

Cola’s “infectious passion for solving the world’s energy problems is apparent when he is working with teachers and students,” wrote Georgia Tech mathematics professor Richard Millman in his nomination letter. “Dr. Cola’s energy, charisma, and humor engages those interested as well as not interested in [science, technology, engineering and math] and inspires them to start thinking of our energy issues and how engineers are solving those problems every day.”

Read the full release from AAAS.