Alan Alda with Stony Brook University School of Medicine and Nursing students in the “Communicating Science” course at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.
Stony Brook University’s Center for Communicating Science — the first of its kind in the United States — was renamed in honor of Alan Alda, the actor, director, and writer, a resident of Water Mill.
The naming of the “Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science” was announced by University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. at the Stony Brook Foundation’s annual fundraising Gala, “The Stars of Stony Brook.” Alda was the guest of honor at the event at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan.
He is a founding board member of the center that now bears his name and a visiting professor in the Stony Brook University School of Journalism, which houses the center. Its goal is to enhance public understanding of science by helping scientists and health professionals learn to communicate more effectively with the public, including public officials, students, the media, and colleagues in other disciplines.
“Without Alan Alda, there would be no Center for Communicating Science,” said President Stanley. “He has been a tireless and full partner in the center since its inception. During the past four years, he has traveled thousands of miles championing its activities at other universities and labs, at national conferences, and in one-on-one sessions with academic, government and foundation leaders. He has helped train our faculty and develop our curriculum, and he personally teaches some workshops.”
“For years, I’ve been working to bring communication and science together in a more fundamental way, and now it’s happening,” said Alda. “The blossoming of the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook has been a dream come true for me.”
Among his many contributions to science communication, Alda initiated the Flame Challenge, an international contest run by the center. It began last year when he wrote a guest editorial in the journal Science, recalling how, as an 11-year-old, he had been fascinated by the flame on the end of a candle. When he asked his teacher what a flame was, she replied only: “Oxidation.” That answer meant nothing to him. In his editorial, Alda challenged scientists to do a better job of explaining a flame to an 11-year-old. More than 800 scientists responded, and thousands of 11-year-olds chose the winner: Ben Ames from Kansas City.