Alan Alda, acclaimed actor, writer and director, has joined the faculty of the School of Journalism as a Visiting Professor. He is working with the Center for Communicating Science to help current and future scientists learn to communicate more clearly and vividly with the public. Along with Theatre Arts faculty members, Deborah Mayo, Steve Marsh and Valeri Lantz-Gefroh, he is pioneering the use of improvisational theater exercises to help scientists connect more directly with people outside their field. These exercises, as well as other science communication techniques, will be offered this spring in credit-hearing courses for science graduate students at Stony Brook.
Although Professor Alda is best known for his award-winning work in movies, theater and television, especially his role as Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series “M*A*S*H,” he has an equally distinguished record in public communication of science. For 13 years he was the host of the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers, which he has called “the best thing I ever did in front of a camera.” After interviewing hundreds of gifted scientists around the world, he became convinced that many researchers have wonderful stories to tell, but need to learn how to tell them better. That realization inspired the creation of Stony Brook’s multi-disciplinary Center for Communicating Science in 2009. “Communication is not something extra you add on to science,” according to Professor Alda. “It is the essence of science.”