Open Labs at Yale Wins Seton Elm-Ivy Award

May 29, 2023
Group of five people holding certificates

The scientific outreach program Open Labs at Yale received a 2023 Seton Elm-Ivy Award during a ceremony on April 4 at the Yale Schwarzman Center. Open Labs was honored for its outstanding efforts that enhance the lives of Elm City residents and nourish the partnership between Yale and the city of New Haven.

The program, run by graduate students, postdocs, and other university members, brings science to the New Haven community through talks, demonstrations, and fairs in four signature programs: Science Café, Science Haven, Exploring Science, and Flipped Science Fair. 

As volunteers present scientific concepts to school kids, they inspire the next generation of scientists while simultaneously honing their presentation and communication skills.

“I’ve always liked working with students,” said Josie Jayworth, past director of Open Labs and fifth-year graduate student from the Brudvig Lab. “It’s nice to reflect on my research and think about it in ways that are understandable to people outside my field. I think that’s really valuable. Also, with the kids, the energy is just incredible!”

Instead of shutting down during the pandemic, Open Labs moved their Exploring Science program online. During the virtual sessions, Josie welcomed participants as the master of ceremony and students presented new topics and led breakout room discussions to help participants observe, ask questions, and formulate opinions about the science they just learned. From April 2020 - May 2021, they hosted a whopping 49 Exploring Science sessions, drawing anywhere from 80 to 160 local school kids each week. 

This remarkable feat could not have been accomplished without the passion and commitment of volunteers, many of whom are from Yale Chemistry: Josie Jayworth (director), Matt Capobianco, Sooyun Choi, Diondra Dilworth, Claire Cody, Sean Edington, Jessica Freeze, Noreen Gentry, Randy Hamchand, Nia Harmon, Alec Hegg, Phillips Hutchison, Dan Konstantinovsky, Hannah Nedzbala, Sarah Ostresh, Brahmmi Patel, Conor Rooney, Tayah Turocy, and Eleanor Stewart-Jones.

In addition to Josie’s leadership, Matt Capobianco had a huge role in Exploring Science’s success as the organizer of the weekly sessions.

“It’s a great honor for our work to be recognized by the Yale and New Haven communities,” said Matt, referring to the ceremony in which Yale President Peter Salovey and New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker bestowed the Graduate and Professional Student Ivy Award to Open Labs.

Matt, who is also chair of Science Café, organizes the three-hour event where young scholars try their hand at science demonstrations and listen to graduate students present their research through poster sessions and scientific talks. The most recent Science Café, and the first one since the COVID shutdown, focused on methods to discover exoplanets, how MRIs are used to image our brains, and exploring the ocean’s history through drilling.

Another Open Labs program, Science Haven, brings science demonstrations to New Haven neighborhoods to increase awareness of STEM careers and opportunities for children. The group has been spotted at the Faxon Road Race and at local churches, parks, and fairs.

Their program Flipped Science Fair turns the traditional fair upside down, where middle school students are the judges, evaluating graduate students and postdocs presenting their research.

Learn more and watch past presentations at Open Labs at Yale.

Discover how the Department of Chemistry provides K-12 students with opportunities to learn about chemistry from passionate scientists on our Outreach page