Taking the show on the road

Arianna Soldati, a doctoral student in volcanology, is taking science to rural Missouri.

Earlier this year, Arianna Soldati was stuck in the Syracuse airport filled with grumpy and flustered passengers during a long flight delay. Luckily, she had a bag full of volcanic rocks. Soldati took the opportunity to lighten the mood and entertain her fellow travelers by teaching them about her passion — volcanoes.

Soldati is a doctoral student in volcanology at MU. After she came to MU, she worked on outreach programs with her adviser, Alan Whittington, and she decided that she wanted to start her own program. Soldati founded Science on Wheels, a program that specifically focuses on bringing science to rural communities. While Columbia has a lot to offer, she feels that science is really missing in rural communities, and it can be a hassle to travel to Columbia.

“For a change, we would like to take the science to them,” Soldati said.

Science on Wheels, which is run by MU graduate students, will travel to counties around the state. Each meeting will be a large overview of different scientific fields with about five or six speakers. For example, Soldati wants to teach about fun and interesting parts of volcanoes, but she also wants to focus on things applicable to those attending such as pest resistance for crops and other agriculture and health-related topics.

“Science isn’t just something that happens in labs,” Soldati said. “It’s something that’s used in everyday life.”

At the first meeting, to be held in Fulton on Sept. 21 at the MU Callaway County Extension Center, one of the speakers will discuss agroforestry and how corn and oak trees can grow and benefit the other. Soldati hopes that people will come to learn about how the world around them works.

“I want everyone in the state to meet a scientist,” Soldati said. “Most people never actually meet a scientist and don’t necessarily know what they look like or what the actually do.”

She hopes that Sciences on Wheels can help bridge the gap between people and scientists. Hopefully, the program will make people see scientists differently and trust them more.

Originally from Milan, Soldati has always known that she wanted to study volcanoes. When she was a little girl, Soldati watched on TV as a volcano erupted in the Philippines and was fascinated. With encouragement from her parents, she began learning as much as she could and has never looked back.

Soldati is one of approximately 1,500 volcanologists worldwide. When it came time to choose a school, Soldati found a Ph.D. position at MU, and it was perfect. At MU, Soldati has the opportunity to use one of only three viscometry labs in the world. In this lab, Soldati melts rocks back down to lava, measures the viscosity, and from there, she can speculate how fast the lava will flow and determine the hazards to the people that live in areas around volcanoes.

Soldati is set to graduate next spring, and while she hopes to continue in academia, science communications is also an option. Soldati is using Science on Wheels as a good learning opportunity.

In addition to meeting in Callaway County this week, Science on Wheels also will be stopping in Moniteau, Cole and Howard counties later this fall.

For more information and for a complete schedule of upcoming Science on Wheels events please visit their website.

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