EEPS Supports Rice’s 4th Annual Science Olympiad Invitational

Rice undergraduates Annelise Goldman and Muthu Chidambaram talking with a participant of the Rice Science Olympiad Invitational “Sounds of Music” science event on January 18, 2020.

Three Rice undergraduates including EEPS own Annelise Goldman with the Rice University Science Olympiad Alumni Association (Rice SOAA) hosted the 4th consecutive Science Olympiad Invitational on January 18, 2020.

Rice undergraduates Alan Jin (co-president), Muthu Chidambaram (co-president), Annelise Goldman (vice president) managed a challenging set of science events that attracted 525 high school students from 36 teams from 21 high schools across the U.S.


Approximately 45 volunteers, mostly Rice undergraduate members of Rice SOAA, some graduate students and Rice Alumni, wrote and graded tests, proctored exams and managed science events. Nearly all the volunteers put in a long day starting with the arrival of visitors before 8 a.m. and concluding with the awards ceremony in the RMC Grand Hall around 8 p.m.

“I think it was a great science outreach effort for Rice, connecting with the greater Houston (and far beyond in some cases) community,” says says Dr. Richard Gordon, Keck Professor of Geophysics in the department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences and faculty sponsor of Rice SOAA.

This is the second Rice University Science Olympiad for Sophomore Annelise Goldman, who volunteered in 2018 and then joined the organizing committee in 2019. She went from writing one exam her first year, to writing three exams and helping to manage all the 2020 event activities. But this isn’t her first brush with Science Olympiad.

Annelise has been participating since middle school. “I am a long-term fan. At my middle school it was really competitive. At the time I thought that science was really cool, but was like, ‘I’m not a person who’s cut out to do science’. But my mom suggested I try out anyway, to see if I might like it.” Like it she did, going on to participate throughout high school.

Science Olympiad is the reason why she is a science major at Rice.

Annelise Goldman evaluates one of the student-built instruments submitted for the “Sounds of Music” event at the 2020 Rice Science Olympiad Invitational.

Now she is giving back to the program that brought her where she is today. “I’m very grateful to this program for inspiring me and introducing me to different fields. I wanted to help other students have a similar experience,” says Goldman.

Science Olympiad invitationals are practical competitions that help Science Olympiad teams from across the country prepare for regional and national competitions. Invitational events are themselves competitive among host schools. Universities seek to not only provide high quality exams that lure nationally ranked teams, but to expose those “elite” students to what the host University has to offer.

Science Olympiad Invitationals also include key-note lectures by host institution faculty that connect and inform students about careers in science. This year’s key-note speaker was EEPS own assistant professor Dr. Sylvia Dee, who shared her pathway to science, the impact of her research, and the variety of careers available to scientists.

Advocates For Science

From a steadily growing interest by the scientific community along with increased demand by educators and policy makers, science communication has become the need of the hour. The American Geophysical Union (AGU)  launched the Voices for Science Program to help the geoscience community meet those needs. The program aims to help train scientists from all stages in their careers to be better science communicators and advocates for public engagement.

With two different tracks, communications and policy, the Voices for Science program provides the opportunity to actively participate and explore different facets of science communication. Only 30 individuals were chosen  from a pool of 100 candidates to be a part of the inaugural program. Doctoral candidate Sriparna Saha has been selected as a part of the initial cohort for the communications track.

Read about the Voices for Science Program in the following article published in EOS:

Reach for the Stars STEM Festival 2018

The twelfth annual ‘Reach for the Stars Stem Festival‘ , co-sponsored by the Ride Family Foundation and Rice Space Institute, was held at Rice University on Saturday, April 21st. It was  a spectacular success. This festival, which targets middle school girls, includes a street fair, an inspiring talk by a woman astronaut, and roughly thirty women-led science and engineering workshops. The plenary talk was given by NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who also happens to be a Rice Alum. This event turned out to be another opportunity for the Rice Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences Department to showcase its commitment towards science outreach and education.


The EEPS exhibit table engaged young girls with fun, hands-on activities like the plate tectonics (using Oreo cookies), along with the tried and true rock and mineral identification.  Some of the modules presented were developed as a part of the EEPS Reach teaching program, and successfully kickstarted part of the workshop sessions. 



It was amazing to see that the young girls were ecstatic to learn about science- and geology in particular- even if some of the girls only cared about eating the Oreo cookie continents. Not just the young girls were engaged. Some of the teachers accompanying the girls actually took notes on the hands-on activities (the Oreo cookie plate tectonic activity was an instant hit with both young and old alike), telling us that they would incorporate them in their classroom teaching. Perhaps this is the beauty of public outreach activities, to be able to connect with people in such a way that they start to care about science.

Graduate students Alana Semple, Juliana Spector, Laura Carter and Sriparna Saha represented the department at this event and mentored two 45-minute workshops focused on the Earth’s Interior (Differentiation and Convection) and the Earth’s Exterior (Wet Texas: from Floodplains to the Coast).  Known formerly as the ‘Sally Ride Festival‘, this annual fair brings in hundreds of young girls to the Rice University campus, giving them a glimpse into the world of science in a way that excites them and encourages them to explore the world around them.