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Science selects 'Ask a Biologist' website to win SPORE award

is earning a graduate degree in the sciences.

"I consider myself a devout artist who was either seduced or enticed by science," he says.

The system he developed for Ask a Biologist includes an email form on which users ask their questions of Dr. Biology. Then, Kazilek or a teaching assistant directs the question to the appropriate expert. A main goal is to avoid overwhelming any one expert. Kazilek points out that no one is complaining.

"Quite frankly, the questions are addicting," Kazilek says. Sounding like old-time television show host Art Linkletter, Kazilek says, "Kids ask the darnedest questions."

He gives a few examples: Who would win in a battle between a sea anemone and a jellyfish? Why do ants huddle up like penguins? Why do your fingers get wrinkled after a long bath?

"You might get a 'silly' question, and before you're done, there's quite a bit to it," Kazilek says. "It's a challenge. I know someone really understands their science when they can communicate it to a fifth-grader."

Visitors to the site are in fact primarily students (at 60 percent). Parents and lifelong learners account for 20 percent, and the remaining 20 percent are teachers.

The question-and-answer format keeps site users in close touch with the site team. The users request that certain kinds of information be included on the site, which has resulted in 2,500 pages of interesting science-related activities, games, quizzes, and experiments. "Meet Our Biologists" profiles allow students to imagine themselves working in science and help them know how to prepare, although that path is not presented as rigidly determined. A podcast on the topic of becoming a professional scientist emphasizes that people of all kinds arrive at science careers through as many different avenues. Also among the site's "cool tools," as Kazilek refers to them, is a "zoom gallery," which allows visitors to observe objects at different levels of magnific

Contact: Natasha Pinol
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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