Jesse Hildebrand has always been interested in science communication. But, the self-proclaimed lifelong nerd never thought he’d find himself at the helm of a government-funded, week-long celebration of science in Canada.
Science Literary Week runs Sept. 18 to 24, with 650 events across the country, six of them taking place in Victoria.
Hildebrand, a University of Toronto grad, was the kind of kid whose bookshelves were lined with Carl Sagan on walls decorated with Steve Irwin posters. In 2014, he had an idea for libraries to share their science collections, in an effort to get the public more interested with how things work and why.
“Libraries are so wonderful because not only do they have the resources, they’ve reframed themselves into the ultimate community hub,” Hildebrand says on the phone from Toronto, where he develops and applies science programs for Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
What’s great about Science Literacy Week is that it partners those who wouldn’t normally work together, Hildebrand says. At the University of Victoria, the Mearns Centre for Learning will host a panel discussion and wine and cheese Sept. 21, featuring speakers working in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We’re discussing science in an informal atmosphere with alcohol and it gets people interested,” Hildebrand says. “There are a lot of kids events, but I’m really excited when we get adults involved. Adults vote and need to know about climate change.”
National Learn to Code Day, Sept. 23, will provide an introduction to learning the digital language, a skill Hildebrand says will be critical in ‘every job in the next 20 years.’ Local hosts will deliver the day-long workshop designed for coders of all skill levels, including those who’ve never coded before. The event is a partnership with Ladies Learning Code’s Victoria chapter, a non-profit organization teaching technical skills in a hands-on way.
“If you look at women in high-level careers as they progress across the sciences, something is going wrong on the pathway there,” Hildebrand explains. “When I was a student, there were 70 per cent women. But heading into physics, computer science and chemistry, women are the minority and we’d like to see that change.”
At the Royal B.C. Museum, SciComm Night rounds out Victoria’s events for the week. Local innovators in science communication will be on hand including spider scientist Catherine Scott, who will discuss how science concepts must be crafted in order to be impactful.
Hildebrand has long been interested in getting the message across about science – “the fact that you can share these things with people and fascinate them about the cosmos and nature,” he says.
“It’s a frantic week, but it’s very fun.”