“A.A.A.S. Honors M.S.I.’s Olivia Castellini, 124 Other Women in Science,” by S.M. O’Connor

      The Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) in Chicago announced that Olivia Casteillini, Ph.D., a Senior Exhibit Developer at the M.S.I., was one of 125 women that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (A.A.A.S.) had named as AAAS IF/THEN Ambassadors.  “She will join 125 women across the nation in mentoring and empowering girls to become the next generation of STEM innovators. Dr. Castellini, who double majored in physics and music as an undergraduate, will connect middle-school girls to the many ways they can spark their interest in STEM fields.”

      Dr. Castellini earned her doctorate in physics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  Her areas of expertise include nanotechnology, materials science, and microscopy.  She studies public comprehension of science and nanotechnology.  She was part of the team that planned the creation of Science Storms, the 26,000-square-foot physics exhibit that takes up West Court in the Museum of Science and Industry’s Central Pavilion.


Figure 1 Credit: Museum of Science and Industry Caption: This is Olivia Castellini, Ph.D., Senior Exhibit Developer at the Museum of Science and Industry and one of 125 women named AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors.

      This A.A.A.S. IF/THEN® Ambassadors Program falls under the umbrella of the A.A.A.S. Center for Engagement with Science and Technology.  To see a full list of all 125 IF/THEN® Ambassadors, click here.

      The women so honored each receive an award of $5,000 and will attend the IF/THEN® Summit in Dallas, Texas in October will they learn tips about developing personal press kits and receive coaching about public engagement, talking to the press, and S.T.E.M. (science technology, engineering, and math) education.  They will go on YouTube channels, cable news shows, and network news shows.  The National Girls Collaborative Project will host the IF/THEN® Collection, a digital assets library with their pictures and videos for use by teachers, non-profits, and the press.  The IF/THEN® Ambassadors will engage directly with middle school girls via classrooms; informal educational settings, such as A.A.A.S.F.’s Family Science Days; museum exhibits about women in S.T.E.M. professions; and Girls Scouts of the U.S.A. programs.

      The A.A.A.S. stated, “IF/THEN® is proud to recognize talented women STEM professionals across a variety of industries as IF/THEN® Ambassadors who will serve as high profile role models for middle school girls. In partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), IF/THEN® created the AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors Program that brings together 125 of these innovators for specialized media and communications training. Using a talent agency model, IF/THEN® will support the Ambassadors and their inspiring work by showcasing them on a national platform. AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors will share stories of their STEM journeys and the many ways in which they use STEM to solve problems and create new possibilities for the future.”

      IF/THEN® is an initiative of the Dallas-based Lyda Hill Philanthropies.  According to the A.A.A.S, “IF/THEN®… seeks to further women in science, technology, engineering and math by empowering current innovators and inspiring the next generation of pioneers.”

      “We firmly believe that IF we support a woman in STEM, THEN she can change the world,” stated Lyda Hill, founder of Lyda Hill Philanthropies.  “The goal of IF/THEN® is to shift the way our country – and the world – think about women in STEM and this inquires changing the narratives about women STEM professionals and improving their visibility.”

      Lyda Hill is one of several heirs of oil tycoon H.L. Hunt (1889-1974), an entrepreneur, capitalist (investor), and a philanthropist. She is one of three children born to Albert Galatyn Hill (1904-1988) and Margaret Hunt Hill (1915-2007), a Hunt Petroleum heiress, real estate developer, and philanthropist.[1]  Ms. Hill has an abiding interest in science education, healthcare, and conservation.  On Monday, March 4, 2019, the Lyda Hill Philanthropies announced a commitment of $25,000,000 to the IF/THEN initiative.

      “AAAS is deeply committed to advancing education and opportunities for girls and women in STEM,” stated Margaret Hamburg, Chair of the A.A.A.S. Board of Directors.  “This partnership enables us to reach more deeply into STEM education and help advance STEM careers for women and girls.  It will help us to elevate the voices of women working in STEM fields and to inspire the next generation of girls and women in science.”

      The A.A.A.S. stated, “The Ambassadors Program addresses the critical need for more women STEM professionals and better portrayals of women scientists in media and popular culture.  Recent findings by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media suggested that just 37% of STEM professionals portrayed in television and film are women.  Having a fictional or non-fictional STEM role model increases the proportion of girls interested in getting a job in the sector by 20%, according to a 2018 Microsoft survey.”

In response to these trends, Lyda Hill Philanthropies is collaborating with more than 30 organizations including AAAS, Girls Scouts of the USA, National Georgraphic, Teach for America, U.S. Soccer and the World Wildlife Fund to form the IF/THEN® Coalition.  Each member of the Coalition has committed to actively promote women in STEM with a purposeful effort to reach girls where they consume content most.

      To this end, the Lyda Hill Philanthropies partnered with Litton Entertainment, a division of Hearts Television, to produce Mission Unstoppable, a new half-hour-long series about “women on the cutting edge of science, including AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors” that will premiere on the C.B.S. (Columbia Broadcasting System) television network on Saturday, September 28, 2019.  Actress-singer Miranda Cosgrove, best known as the star of Nickelodeon’s iCarly (2007-2012), and movie star Geena Davis (Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise) are the executive producers.


Figure 2 Credit: Businesswire Caption: This is promotional poster for Mission Unstoppable featuring actress-singer Miranda Cosgrove.

      The A.A.A.S. stated, “AAAS IF/THEN® Ambassadors were selected through a rigorous selection process.  Candidates were evaluated for overall excellence with a focus on the following: contributions to their STEM-related field, commensurate with their career stage; demonstrated experience and abilities in STEM communication and public engagement via media, classroom, and public programs; and commitment to inspiring middle-school girls to be the next generation of STEM pioneers.”  The selection process included the IF/THEN Girls Advisory Council, which is comprised of over 150 teenage girls between the ages of ten-and-eighteen.

      Often stylized as the “Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago” or the “Museum of Science + Industry” the institution is located at the northern end of the Chicago Park District’s Jackson Park, on the south side of 57th Street, between Lake Shore Drive to the east and Cornell Drive to the west, in the East Hyde Park neighborhood of the Hyde Park Community Area (Community Area #41) on the South Side of Chicago.  The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.

      Founded by Sears, Roebuck & Company President Julius Rosenwald (1862-1932) in 1926, through The Commercial Club of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry opened in three stages between 1933 and 1940.  It occupies the Palace of Fine Arts from Chicago’s first World’s Fair, the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893).  The M.S.I. is open every day of the year with two exceptions: Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.  On most days, it is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., but during peak periods it is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  The Website is https://www.msichicago.org/ and the phone number is (773) 684-1414.

[1] Margaret Hunt Hill was one of seven children born to the billionaire H.L. Hunt and his first wife, Lyda Bunker (1889-1955), six of whom lived to adulthood.  H.L. Hunt had a total of fifteen children by his three wives.

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