Science to get ‘sexy’ makeover at Harvard

(U-WIRE) CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – While other students spent winter break slaving over papers, the members of Mind, Brain, and Behavior 152, “Consumable Science,” had a different project: They launched an organization.

The Zing, as its founders recently dubbed the enterprise, seeks to give science’s public image a “makeover.”

“In many people’s eyes, science is not hip,” said psychology professor Marc D. Hauser, who teaches the course. “The idea I had was to put together a class of undergrads and try to see in what ways we can change the face of science.”

The organization plans to kick off with a Valentine’s Day “LoveFest” detailing the science of attraction and a $100 T-shirt contest for the best design using the words, “Science Is Sexy.”

Students in the group said they chose Feb. 14 hoping the science of love and sex would generate new enthusiasm for a discipline some worried came across as “too geeky.”

“Valentine’s Day has a very different image than science,” said Zing member Rachel W. Sheketoff ’08. “So we thought merging the two would help change the way people think about science.”

The symposium will take place at The Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub, and Hauser said tentative speakers include Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker.

The deadline for T-shirt design submissions is Jan. 11 and contest rules are available on the group’s Web site. Members reported that The Zing’s plans after LoveFest are up in the air, though they plan to recruit more students and perhaps hold a science fair modeled on ArtsFirst.

“We’re hoping to use LoveFest as a precedent to attract attention and get more people involved,” said Susan E. Maya ’08, another Zing member. “But we haven’t decided for sure on other things we want to do.”

One step that does seem certain is that the group will file as an official student organization with Harvard.

Hauser, who has advised more controversial clubs through the process, said The Zing should have little trouble.

“I assume it is going to be a no-brainer,” Hauser said with a laugh. “I’m the adviser for [the student sex magazine] H-Bomb, and that was a real challenge.”

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