Connecting Science and Society: Science is Fun

By Bassam Z. Shakhashiri
Professor of Chemistry & William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea

Science is Fun program flyer in SpanishOur public engagement programs reach large audiences in person, on the radio, in print, via television, social media and the internet. The Science is Fun truck traveled to schools, libraries, farmers markets, public parks and other community centers.

The 50th Annual Once Upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri was held at the Middleton Performing Arts Center and is available to watch online. We saluted the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters on its 150th anniversary with bubbly cheers and colorful experiments. Our last in-person event was on March 10, 2020 at Huegel School.

Our emphasis is on connecting science and society as we feature hands-on/minds-on activities and a variety of topics such as: Creativity Links Art and Science and Science and Music: Creative Cousins. Climate science workshops for faculty and teachers continue to be offered virtually across the country.

I am especially pleased with the increasing number of Wisconsin Ph.D. candidates who are including in their theses a chapter in which they explain their scholarly research to non-science audiences.

Since March 10, my group has expanded our research and development work with new Experiments You Can Do at Home, new Learn Abouts, videos of home experiments and entries on our YouTube channel. Everyone is working virtually. Our weekly group meetings feature a guest who shares perspectives and provides inspiration as we adjust and adapt to the rapid changes and uncertainty that society faces. Bibi Campos-Seijo, Nadia Drake, Thomas Friedrich, Roald Hoffmann, Thomas Holme, Neal Lane, Alan Leshner, Cora Marrett, Harold McGee, Chad Mirkin, William Moomaw, Elliott Sober, Amanda Turek and Richard Zare were among the guests.

Our mission is to promote literacy in science, mathematics and technology among the general public and to attract future generations to careers in research, teaching and public service.

Science literacy enlightens and enables people to make informed choices, to be skeptical, and to reject shams, quackery, unproven conjecture, and to avoid being bamboozled into making foolish decisions where matters of science and technology are concerned. Science literacy is for everyone—scientists, artists, humanists, all professionals, the general public, youth and adults alike.

Long live the Wisconsin Idea!


Bucky Badger's Experiment - What ingredients did he use?

Bucky Badger joins in marking my 51st year as a UW-Madison chemistry faculty member by mixing two clear and colorless solutions to form a bright yellow solid. Note Bucky’s googles—safety is paramount in in everything that I and my group do.

What ingredients did Bucky use? The first five people to correctly identify both components and the name of the solid will receive autographed copies of Volume 5 in the Chemical Demonstrations Book Series. Send your responses to