Astrophysicist and Leadership Pasadena alumnus and past board president Gordon Squires opened the Leadership Pasadena science session at Caltech telling the class that 75% of women and 66% of Ph.D.s believe the news article they were handed at the workshop. And then he told them: None of that was true. He made it up. With that, the class began an in-depth discussion on what news is real and what is fake and what science is evidence-supported and what is fake science.
“I thought the percentages were extreme but, heck, it was Gordon. He’s brilliant and an LP alumnus so I believed him. Wow, I was dumb!” said Cindy Bengtson, member of the Leadership Class of 2017.
Squires and Trity Pourbahrami, director of communications for the engineering and applied sciences division at Caltech and a Leadership Pasadena alumna and past board member, provided concrete tools to help the class evaluate news and science articles. Case studies were also worked on requiring the participants to defend both sides of controversial scientific projects currently drawing public opposition.
According to Pasadena firefighter Tim Sell, member of the LP class, “This was an amazing day … being surrounded by some of the world’s most brilliant minds … challenging me and the Leadership Pasadena class on information-gathering and using scientific theory to test our information gathering on everyday news events, complicated environmental and other issues, and commercial claims on health products, medicines and more.”
The class also discussed the upcoming Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine with Dr. Mark Klau, vice dean of the School of Medicine; clinical and process research done by Huntington Hospital with Dr. Gabriella Sherman, VP of clinical innovation and performance improvement at Huntington and Linda Searle-Leach, director of nursing research and innovation at Huntington; the societal importance of design and innovation from Mark Breitenberg of Interactivism and Innovate Pasadena; the history and power of the nonprofit STEAM:CODERS by Raymond Ealy, executive director of STEAM:CODERS.
Luther Beegle, head of JPL’s Sherloc on Mars 2020, discussed the complex details and goals of the Mars mission. The session concluded with a private, behind-the-scenes tour of Caltech.