Brian Greene, a physicist who helped make string theory a common household phrase, will be visiting UCF on Thursday, April 18, to kick of the university’s State of STEM Conference.

Dr. Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, has been studying the cosmos for decades and is considered a leading expert in the field. He also is known for his ability to make science understandable to non-scientists.

He has published many books, narrated PBS specials, appeared on a variety of shows including The Colbert Report, Late Night with David Letterman and even had a guest spot on the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory.

That’s why Dr. Greene was a perfect fit for the conference, which focuses on science technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in everyday life and the importance of sharing that knowledge to motivate more young people to pursue careers in these fields.

‘Understanding physics, math, engineering and science is critical because you may not be a scientist, but you certainly enjoy the technological advances they are creating,” said Michael Georgiopoulos, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS). The college is home to the iCubed project, which is sponsoring the conference.

“Likewise, you may not be an artist, but you can appreciate the beauty of what the artist creates. It takes the collaboration of people from different disciplines to move our society forward.”

That is the mission of iCubed, a National Science Foundation-funded project that partners with several colleges within the university, including the College of Engineering and Computer Science, College of Arts and Humanities, College of Education, and College of Sciences. The project goal is to ensure broader impact of NSF-funded projects through coordination and integration of the education and research activities by increasing participation in STEM fields.
?To bring the point home, University of Oregon professor Richard Taylor will be joining Greene at the conference.

Taylor is a physicist and accomplished artist, which give him a unique way of seeing the world. Blending both backgrounds into his work led him to search for fractal patterns that are everywhere, from microbes to Jackson Pollock’s abstract paintings. Fractal patterns are mathematical structures that nature appears to use for many of the phenomena we observe. Taylor will talk about how science and art are more connected than most people recognize. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, is famous for his paintings, but he also developed early sketches for a helicopter, tank, robot and scuba gear among other things.

The conference concludes with a book signing and the STEAM artwork showcase. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) is a university project, and one of the iCubed activities that brings together science and art students and encourages them to work together to produce art pieces that are inspired by science or engineering.

“We have found that students initially face difficulties to work together, but they eventually find their own unique ways to communicate with each other to complete the project,” Dr. Georgiopoulos said. “It’s an important skill to have, to be able to communicate your scientific or artistic work to multiple audiences.”

Other STEM conference sponsors are the College of Sciences, the Office of Research and Commercialization, the School of Visual Arts and Design, the Steve Goldman Foundation and the UCF Student Government Association.

The STEM conference will run from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Cape Florida room in the Student Union on the main campus. Greene’s presentation will be 9 to 10:15 a.m. Taylor’s talk will begin at 10:30 a.m., and the book signing and artists showcase will begin at 1 p.m. Early arrival is advised as seating is limited.

For more information contact Costas Efthimiou at 407-823-0179 or costas@physics.ucf.edu

— CECS —