UCMP Profiles
Jere H. Lipps: Teaching & Outreach
Teaching Tidbits
Lipps offers a course for non-science and science majors called “Astrobiology: The Scientific Search for Life in the Universe.” This course explores wide-ranging topics on this emerging discipline ranging from public perceptions on extra-terrestrial life to the latest scientific research.

Sample some of Lipps’s essays, written for a general audience:
– In “Candle in the Dark,” Lipps discusses reasons for the worldwide state of scientific illiteracy, and urges the new science graduates to take action to spread scientific knowledge and appreciation. He suggests simple ways in which anyone can improve his or her critical thinking skills.
– “The Decline of Reason” discusses the ways in which we all do science in our day-to-day lives, and suggests ways in which to excite youngsters about the process of doing science.

lipps in MooreaLipps is a dedicated educator. He teaches courses in paleontology, astrobiology, oceanography, and science communication. Lipps also co-teaches a field course on the biology and geology of tropical islands, held at the UC Berkeley Gump Biological Field Station in French Polynesia (shown at right). His excitement is contagious as he strives to instill in his students an understanding and appreciation of paleontology, marine biology and geology. He especially loves introducing budding young scientists to field work, claiming that if he were one day blessed with unlimited funding, he would spend it by bringing more students with him on his expeditions.

The greatest challenge Lipps faces is in juggling administrative responsibilities while maintaining an active and focused research program. Professors must play a dual role of administrator and academic, and it can be difficult sometimes to keep official duties from complicating the progress of research and teaching. Lipps has served as a Department Chair at both UC Davis and UC Berkeley, and as the Director of UCMP.

In addition to his research, teaching and administrative responsibilities, Lipps devotes time to public outreach, particularly on the subject of science in the media. He has written and published numerous essays about the way science and scientists are portrayed to the public. Lipps discusses how the media, motivated by a desire to increase audience share and profits, misleads audiences with sensational “junk science” rather than real, engaging scientific programs. When presented in the right manner, real science is just as fascinating as alien invasions and other pseudo-scientific lore.

Lipps advises people to set aside false notions about the nature of science and scientists. The public will find science to be a creative and enjoyable venture once they learn to look beyond media-driven notions casting scientists as introverts who wear white lab coats and speak in undecipherable jargon.

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