Exploring Your Universe
A free day of science fun at UCLA for the whole family
In 2009, graduate students in UCLA’s Department of Physics and Astronomy had a vision: why not offer a free day of science fun to folks of all ages from all over the Los Angeles community? They joined up with what was then known as the Earth and Space Sciences Department, and Exploring Your Universe (EYU) was born.
EYU began as a celebration of the International Year of Astronomy here at UCLA. But it quickly expanded to offer talks and hands-on activities covering a wide variety of scientific subjects, from chemistry to nanotechnology to Newton’s laws to dinosaurs. It has now become one of the largest free public events at UCLA, bringing thousands of people to campus each November.
To accomplish this, many students, faculty, and staff from across UCLA join together to offer activities and talks during Exploring Your Universe. We believe there is something for everyone at EYU!
Science and Education Pioneer Award
As a key part of EYU, the UCLA Division of Physical Sciences established its Science and Education Pioneer Award in 2017 to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a stellar commitment to empowering the public – especially children – to pursue education and success in the sciences.
2020 Science and Education Pioneer Award: Andrea Ghez, UCLA professor of astronomy and winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics
Andrea Ghez is an American astronomer and has been a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA since 1994. Her research focuses on the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
In 2020, Ghez became the fourth woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, sharing one half of the prize with Reinhard Genzel (the other half of the prize being awarded to Roger Penrose). The Nobel Prize was awarded to Ghez and Genzel for their discovery of a supermassive compact object, now generally recognized to be a black hole, in the Milky Way’s galactic center.
Professor Ghez is currently interested in using and developing high spatial resolution imaging techniques to study star formation and investigate the proposed massive black hole at the center of our galaxy.
Ghez’s passion for her work has resulted in research that has revolutionized the field of astronomy. But she also just as passionate about increasing access to science for girls and women. She is also fully committed to public outreach – including longstanding support of EYU – to help anyone discover their own scientific passion.
2019 Science and Education Pioneer Award recipient: Actress, author, neuroscientist and UCLA alumna Mayim Bialik
Mayim Bialik is known for her role on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory where she played a neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler. However, this character was not far from Bialik’s real-life experiences.
After deferring her original acceptance to UCLA for an acting opportunity, Bialik earned her degree in neuroscience, with minors in Hebrew and Jewish studies from UCLA in 2000. Bialik then returned to UCLA in 2007 to earn her Ph.D. in neuroscience.
Along with her renowned work as an actress starting in the 1980s, Bialik has authored four books, including Girling Up, which discusses the ways in which girls grow up while showing the science behind body transformations. She followed this book with Boying Up in 2018, the male counterpart to Girling Up.
Through acting, writing, and public outreach, Bialik has made great efforts in science communication for all ages, helping science be more accessible and entertaining for the larger community of curious audiences. We were proud to recognize her with the 2019 Science and Education Pioneer Award.
As a key part of UCLA’s Centennial Celebration, EYU was thrilled to welcome more visitors than ever before to the beautiful UCLA campus on November 3, 2019.
Explore photos and videos of EYU 2019 below:
2018 Science and Education Pioneer Award recipient: Actress, author, and UCLA alumna Danica McKellar
Danica McKellar is a New York Times bestselling author of groundbreaking math books for all ages, including the picture book Goodnight, Numbers and middle school hit Kiss My
Math. She graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics.
Before graduation, McKellar co-authored a paper that provided a mathematical proof for a theorem dealing with magnetism in two dimensions. The paper was published in Britain’s “Journal of Physics A: Mathematics & General” and was a major achievement for an undergraduate.
McKellar is well known for her acting roles in The Wonder Years, The West Wing, and multiple television movies for Hallmark Channel and Lifetime. She was also a quarterfinalist on Dancing with the Stars.
Through her books, Danica has made math fun and accessible for countless children around the world, planting seeds of curiosity, wonder, and discovery. We were proud to recognize her with the 2018 Science and Education Pioneer Award.
Explore photos of the 2018 award presentation below:
2017 Science and Education Pioneer Award recipient: Astronaut and UCLA alumna Anna Fisher
The award’s first recipient was UCLA alumna and former astronaut Anna Fisher, who was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1978 and retired in 2017 after a distinguished career at NASA, logging a total of 192 hours in space.
Fisher was a mission specialist on Space Shuttle mission STS-51A, the orbiter Discovery, and a member of NASA’s first astronaut class to include women. She was also the first mother in space, flying in Discovery when her daughter, Kristin, was just fourteen weeks old.
Fisher played an important role in building the International Space Station and in Mission Control. Most recently, she worked on display development for Orion, NASA’s new spacecraft that will take astronauts farther than we have ever been in our solar system.
Fisher has always used her status as a public figure for the public good – to inspire others to value education and science. She has not only broken barriers, she has also been a mentor and role model to countless aspiring astronauts and colleagues at NASA.
Click here to read about the event as reported by the Daily Bruin.