Science Comedian Brian Malow to Keynote 2020 Iowa State University Research Day

By Caitlin Ware, Office of the Vice President for Research

Back for its fourth year, Iowa State University’s annual Research Day event will once again welcome researchers and scholars to collaborate across disciplines and celebrate institution discoveries, but this time with a touch of humor.

Slated for March 25, 2020, the yearly on-campus opportunity for networking and idea-sharing — hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research — will kick off a day early to welcome science comedian Brian Malow as keynote speaker. With two decades as a stand-up comedian blended with a passion for science, Malow specializes in the intersection between knowledge and entertainment. During his Research Day keynote speech, which will take place the evening of March 24 and will be open to the public, Malow will deliver advice (and jokes) to help Iowa State researchers communicate better, with topics including stage presence, connecting with audiences, using analogies, and abusing PowerPoint.

“As a major land-grant university, we need to be able to reach out to individuals who do not have a research background and find ways to make the work we do relatable,” said Guru Rao, Iowa State associate vice president for research. “For Research Day 2020, we wanted a keynote speaker who embodies that sentiment; someone who can lighten complex topics while also communicating that science is exciting and the work scientists do is critical. Who better than someone who can bring humor to the event.”

Malow has delivered science communication talks for NASA, Apple, and the National Science Foundation, among other organizations, as well as produced science videos for Time Magazine and audio pieces for Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk radio show. He has also blogged for Scientific American, worked in science communications at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and annually produces live videos from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in Germany.

As in previous years, the Research Day 2020 agenda will also offer opportunities for attendees to give lightning talks about their research focal areas, present a poster showcasing their research interests and project results, discover campus research services, and listen to stories of real-life research and scholarship experiences through Story Collider talks, modeled after the popular Story Collider podcast series. Information about registration for poster displays, lightning talks, and Story Collider presentations will be released in early December.

New to the 2020 event is a reimagined networking session, which will invite attendees to discover and create collaborations to help address Iowa State’s five grand challenge research themes:

• Promoting healthy lives
• Building sustainable human and natural ecosystems
• Creating next-generation materials and manufacturing technologies
• Advancing data-driven discovery and secure cyber systems
• Developing global citizens and vibrant societies

“Research Day truly embodies who we are as a research institution,” said Iowa State Vice President for Research Sarah Nusser. “It’s innovation. It’s collaboration. And it’s getting out of our disciplinary silos to learn from each other so that we can explore and discover even better solutions to the grand challenges that face our society in the 21st century.”

More than 300 Iowa State faculty, staff and students attended the third annual Research Day on March 28, 2019, and more than 50 research exhibits were displayed — numbers organizers hope will grow in the event’s fourth iteration.

Registration for Research Day 2020 will open Dec. 5, and the full event agenda can be found here. More event details will be provided in future communications from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

“Research Day is a great opportunity to make new connections and learn about all the exciting work going on around campus,” said Michael Bartlett, Research Day Faculty Advisory Committee chair and assistant professor of materials science and engineering. “Big, new ideas and finding interdisciplinary connections is what it’s all about.”