Image Source: TED (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED)
When you sit down for the game in a few days, take a minute to think about all the physics and science involved in each football play. Materials scientist and science communicator Dr. Ainissa Ramirez has done just that.
Before taking on the self-titled role as a “science evangelist,” Ramirez was a materials scientist working in the private sector and then teaching at Yale. Growing up, she wanted to be a scientist from a young age after being inspired watching a young African-American girl solve problems on the television show 3-2-1 Contact.
Having teachers that encouraged her to have confidence in herself made a great deal of difference for Ramirez and helped her achieve her dreams. After earning her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Stanford University in 1998, she transitioned to the private research sector and began working at Bell Labs. She returned to academia in 2003 as an Assistant and then Associate Professor in the Mechanical and Materials Science Department at Yale University. This position allowed her to teach undergraduate courses, establish a lab, and create Science Saturdays, a series of fun lectures for children.
After ten years at Yale she was denied tenure. While it was a painful experience, it led her to find a new path that fit her passions. This path has led her to become one of the world’s foremost science communicators. She is often invited to news programs to help explain the science behind the headlines – in 2016 with regards to the “deflatgate” controversy in American professional football. These appearances have led to Ramirez co-authoring a book about the science behind the sport, Newton’s Football.
She also speaks about the importance of good science education in our schools and best practices for inspiring the next generation of scientists inside and outside of the classroom, including publishing Save Our Science: How to Inspire a New Generation of Scientists. Weaving together the stories of eight inventions and how they shaped the human experience she published her multi-award winning The Alchemy of Us in 2020. She co-hosted the podcast Science Underground and continues to speak at events around the world trying to bring out the fun side of science.
Written by Angela Goad