College of Science & Engineering

Scientist Citizen

Scientist Citizen Television Project

Two individuals behind a video camera Scientist Citizen is a new television program that aims to introduce chemistry into the local media by training a generation of scientist citizens to communicate their ideas and engage the public outside the classroom setting. Prof. John Gilbertson is currently developing this pilot program in collaboration with Western's student-led Chemistry Club. Footage for the first pilot episode has been recorded and is currently in editing and a preview of this episode will be posted as soon as it is available.


Program Philosophy & Aims

Science literacy and understanding in the general public is vital to continue to improve quality of life in the face of the challenges posed by globalization and emerging economies around the world. However, most Americans learn about science outside of school, and obtain science and technology information primarily from informal settings such as television and the internet. Informal learning opportunities, such as family TV viewing or internet websites can broadly engage and educate the general public. Unfortunately, in these informal settings little primary chemistry content is found; chemistry is in fact the neglected science in relation to television programming. One common explanation of the avoidance of chemistry in the mainstream media is that chemists do not communicate information about their fields effectively, even though there are many articulate chemists.


WWU is located in Bellingham, WA, which lies 90 miles north of Seattle, WA and 50 miles south of Vancouver, BC, Canada. Bellingham has a population of roughly 75,000 and is located in Whatcom County, which has a population of 201,140. As a consequence of its geographical location between two major metropolitan areas (3.7 million in the greater Seattle area and 2.1 million in greater Vancouver), the residents of Bellingham do not have access to a news channel dedicated solely to Bellingham. The local news channel, KVOS12, serves all three areas, which severely hampers the representation and dissemination of local scientific information to Bellingham and the residents of Whatcom County as a whole. Even with the advent of social media via the internet, television continues to be the main source of news for Americans. Therefore, there is real opportunity for our undergraduate students to become "scientist citizens" thereby engaging the local public and improving general chemical literacy by utilizing both classical and social media outlets.


If you have any suggestions and/or comments about the program please send an email to:

Episode 1: An Ocean Acidification Dialogue.


Students setting up a demonstration in front of a green screen in a tv production studio A man sitting in front of a series of TV monitors and audio mixing boards wearing headphones with a boom microphone