Acclaimed actor, director, and writer with a lifelong passion for science
Alan Alda is an acclaimed actor, director, and writer with a lifelong passion for science. As a Visiting Professor in Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism, he is a founding member of the University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and a champion for the Center’s work helping scientists learn communicate more effectively with the public about their work and why it matters.
Alan Alda became famous as surgeon Hawkeye Pierce on the TV series M*A*S*H (1972-1983). Since then, he has created a host of memorable characters on television (from Sen. Vinick on The West Wing to Alan Fitch on The Blacklist); in scores of movies, several of which he also wrote and directed, and on the stage, in such plays as Art, Glengarry Glen Ross, QED and most recently, Love Letters. He has won seven Emmy Awards and six Golden Globe Awards, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. In 2005, he had the distinction of publishing a best-selling book (Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned) and being nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony, all in a single year.
Yet exceptional as his artistic achievements are, they are rivaled by his contributions to improving communication of science to the public. His lifelong interest in science led him to host PBS’ Scientific American Frontiers from 1993 to 2005, a role he once called “the best thing I did in front of a camera.”. As a curious, thoughtful non-scientist, he talked with hundreds of scientists around the world and saw that they communicate much better when they carry on real, personal conversations about their work, rather than lecturing or falling back on technical language. He brought that insight to Stony Brook University, inspiring the University to create the Center for Communicating Science in 2009.
The Center, renamed in his honor in 2013, uses improvisational theater exercises, among other techniques, to help scientists learn to share their work and their passion more directly with the public. The Center offers courses for graduate students at Stony Brook, workshops for scientists and health professionals around the country, and outreach activities, such as the Flame Challenge, an international science-communication contest. The Center is building a network of like-minded programs around the country, with the goal of making communication skills part of the essential education of scientists.