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👋 Welcome to the Western North Carolina Local Science Engagement Network (LSEN)!

  • 1.  👋 Welcome to the Western North Carolina Local Science Engagement Network (LSEN)!

    Posted 23 days ago

    I'm excited to launch our Western North Carolina (WNC) LSEN community and connect with local scientists and engineers who are eager to create an impact. 

    My name is Yuhan "Douglas" Rao, and I'm the LSEN Liaison for WNC. LSEN's mission is to empower scientists and engineers to engage with their communities, elevating the visibility of and trust in science while building and satisfying the demand for scientific evidence that addresses needs, solves problems, and informs state and local decision-making.  

    As we get started in forming our local network and fulfilling the mission of LSEN, please take a moment to introduce yourself here and share some of the science-related topics and issues that are specific to WNC that you're interested in learning more about. For example,

    • What pressing issues would you like to address within our network?
    • What skills and learning opportunities are you looking for that would help you hone your professional, personal, and civic engagement skills?
    • Your input is vital to shaping our community's focus. 

    Here's a little about me to start the introductions.

    I am a research scientist with the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies, a research institute with NC State University that is located in the breathtaking mountains of western North Carolina. Before moving to Asheville, I was at the University of Maryland, College Park where I got my doctoral degree in Geographical Sciences.

    My interest in public engagement started during my time at UMD when I had a panic attack to answer this question in my mind – "Would other people ever care about my research?" The lack of confidence to answer that question led me to explore opportunities within the university. That's when I started to engage in science communication and public engagement via workshops, outreach events, and training (including some improv classes). These activities really helped me to define my own professional goal – to be a researcher who can be a bridge between science and society beyond peer-reviewed publications. I don't think my story is unique but I still want to share the moment when I started to rethink what means to be a scientist.

    Fast forward to myself now, I actively engage in public engagement in WNC through public outreach, adult education, and engaging with local and regional organizations with the intention to be a bridge between science and local communities. The topic that is dearest to my heart is environmental conservation including issues related to climate change. That's why you will often find me talking about climate change and its impacts with different groups – local gardening clubs, local Audubon chapters, K-12 students, and adult education courses, to name a few. 

    I am particularly excited about the LSEN concept by AAAS because I truly believe it provides a unique opportunity to ground engagement between science and society with issues that are directly related to local communities. For global-scale issues like climate change and sustainability, the local connection is critical to make science engagement matter.

    I look forward to reading your introduction and learning about your background and the topics that are important to you. Let's join forces and champion the cause of science in western North Carolina.  

    Douglas Rao, PhD
    North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies
    NC State University
    Asheville, NC