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Science Boot Camp for Librarians – West

Guest post by Margaret Mellinger, Oregon State University Libraries
Over 120 attendees participated in the first western version of Science Boot Camp for Librarians, held on the University of Colorado
Boulder campus from June 19 – 21, 2013. The event was funded in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under Contract No. HHS-N-276-2011-00008-C with the University of Washington.

The purpose of the Boot Camp — West was to help science librarians who did not major in, or recently study, scientific or medical fields gain a basic understanding of goals and methods in select disciplines. This event was modeled after the successful annual events held in Massachusetts. Boot Camps are comprised of an immersive, two-and-a-half-day program, featuring educational presentations on scientific and medical topics. Speakers for the Western version came from the University of Colorado system.

Day 1: After registration and lunch, we kicked off the boot camp with two speakers on the topic of physics. Dr. Ariel Paul, set the stage by giving us a whirlwind overview of the history of physics, using colorful analogies and memorable quotes. Dr. John Bohn filled us in on a hot (pardon the pun) topic in physics – the study of ultracold atoms. Following the physics session, attendees either took in the exhibit “Systematic Wonder: Science Observed through Rare, Historic, & Artistic Works” in Special Collections, or heard “Stories from the Collection: Highlights of the Colorado University Museum of Natural History” told by Jim Hakala, Senior Educator at the museum. Dinner was held on the club level of Folsom Stadium and featured a panel of CU women in science with Dr. Patricia Rankin, Dr. Andrea Iglesias, and Dr. Monique K. LeBourgeois, moderated by Flora Shrode (Utah State University).

Day 2: Campers arose from their dorm room sleep, and ate a healthy breakfast to prepare for the brainwork of learning about Environmental Science and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Dr. Babs Buttenfield introduced GIS, using two examples to show the power of environmental modeling in natural systems (wolf predation on elk) and social systems (refining census data modeling). Dr. James White talked about sustainability and climate change using incontrovertible (but easily understood) scientific concepts. You can’t escape physics, folks!

In the afternoon session CU Librarians Megan Bresnahan, Andrew Johnson and Katie Lage gave a data management workshop that covered the basics and background as well as affording participants a chance to play with real datasets. A barbeque dinner and subsequent happy hour gave participants plenty of time to digest what they were learning at boot camp and to interact with fellow campers.

Day 3: Dr. Larry Hunter reviewed the field of bioinformatics and touched on the area of computational pharmacology. He recommended a number of tools for librarians to be aware of and to become more expert in using, depending on the users they serve. Dr. Robin Dowell talked about her research in genomics where she is investigating the possible functions of non-coding transcriptions. A box lunch and an optional trip to the National Clearinghouse of Atmospheric Research (NCAR) rounded out the final day. Participants enjoyed walking on mountain trails near the NCAR campus.

Slides and other materials are now available on the Science Boot Camp for Librarians – West website.  Speaker videos will be posted later in the summer – stay tuned, we’ll post an update to Dragonfly when those go live.

The speakers were skilled instructors – passionate and articulate on their subjects. The attendees were gracious, enthused and engaged – sleeping in dorms, walking a lot and getting to know one another. The event was even more successful than the organizers dreamed it would be, and we are considering a repeat sometime next year in a new location.

One Response to “Science Boot Camp for Librarians – West”

  1. Cathy Burroughs Says:

    Thanks for this article, Margaret, giving a vivid description of the program, speakers, and experiences at the boot camp. Congratulations to you and others on the planning committee and the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries for putting on a fabulous event!