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UW-Eau Claire Donor Provides Funding
for Science Education Outreach Program

RELEASED: May 19, 2005

EAU CLAIRE — A new Science Education Outreach Pprogram at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will bring science education into the community to benefit Chippewa Valley youth.

Thanks to Christine Gritzmacher, a 1972 UW-Eau Claire biology and chemistry graduate, science programs and demonstrations will be available to schools and other organizations.

Gritzmacher, who has a Ph.D. and law degrees, is a senior patent attorney for Gen-Probe Inc., a San Diego-based biomedical company that produces diagnostic products to test for microorganisms based on patented DNA probe technology. She began supporting the UW-Eau Claire Foundation in1981 by donating to biology scholarships and establishing an endowed fund. The earnings from the fund will now be used to develop a science education outreach program under the direction of science professors and selected students.

"I've been very lucky and wanted to give something to others who could benefit from it," said Gritzmacher. "I hope the program will expose younger students to the excitement and enjoyment of scientific study. In particular, for girls or minorities who traditionally haven't been encouraged to pursue scientific studies or careers, I hope this will persuade them that scientific study is fun and may lead to a career path that interests them."

Gritzmacher hopes the fund will encourage faculty who are doing volunteer outreach education and get more faculty to participate.

"As a formal program, it'll provide students with opportunities to participate in something outside of their classes that relates to their studies for which they'll receive monetary support," Gritzmacher said.

Until now there hasn't been an organized way for people outside the university to request science education programs, said Erik Hendrickson, physics and astronomy department chair. If teachers or youth program organizers want programs relating to science, they contact a member of the science faculty to make arrangements, he said.

"We all do science outreach, but it comes out of our own hide," said Hendrickson, who created Science Theater physics demonstrations that he takes to schools when he has time and students to help. "There are no resources for creating programs, assembling materials or going to the schools."

"I think children may benefit simply from meeting people who have chosen a career in science because it will give them more appreciation for the possibilities that a science education can open to them," Gritzmacher said.

Hendrickson and others encourage their students to go into schools with them. "We know it’s a great way to get kids interested in science," he said. "We know it works and we're very excited about this program."

The fund will provide supplies and $1,000 annual stipends for two students to help with the outreach program each year. In the fall, a committee of science faculty and a Foundation representative will select students for the positions, which could include a Science Theater presenter to do physics demonstrations, a planetarium show presenter, a chemistry demonstration presenter, a greenhouse tour guide or a Materials Science Center tour guide. A student also will be hired to create a Web site for the program. Faculty will train the students.

"We have wonderful students who will benefit from these opportunities," Hendrickson said. "It'll be a confidence-builder to be recognized for their expertise, knowledge and skills. They'll hone their skills whether they go to graduate school, begin teaching or work in industry."

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JW/JB

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