Space expert Neil deGrasse Tyson is at UF Wednesday

Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 5:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 5:44 p.m.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, often called the nation's "go-to" science communicator, will bring his experience and passion to the University of Florida on Wednesday.

"He's an expert in his field, he's a communicator of science, he's funny, he's lively and he's able to make science interesting for even those not particularly interested in science," said Josh Holtzman, chairman of the Accent Speakers Bureau, which arranged Tyson's appearance. "That's not an easy thing to do."

Tyson is nationally known for his research and publications on star formation and exploration, dwarf galaxies and the structure of the Milky Way. Tyson hosted "NOVA ScienceNow" on PBS from 2006 to 2011, and he is also commonly featured on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.

Tyson's list of accomplishments includes 18 honorary doctorate degrees and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given by NASA to non-government citizens.

"If you want someone to explain to Congress why science is important or explain to students why science is beneficial, he's the person to call," said Reba Bandyopadhyay, assistant scientist and astronomy professor at UF.

Tyson earned his bachelor's degree in physics from Harvard and his astrophysics doctorate from Columbia University. He currently serves as the director of the Hayden Planetarium in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

"Although some see astronomy as a fun subject, they don't necessarily connect it to their everyday lives," Bandyopadhyay said. "He explains why astronomy is a good way to get involved with science and what that connection brings to the modern world."

When Accent contacted Tyson with a proposal to visit UF, he was willing and excited for the chance to speak to students, Holtzman said.

"I hope he is able to inspire students to take an interest in scientific issues and current controversies in the science community," Holtzman said. "And that he is able to provide an enjoyable evening of entertainment as well."

UF students can pick up tickets with their student ID card at the Phillips Center Box Office beginning at noon on Tuesday. Any remaining tickets will be distributed to the general public beginning at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

Doors at the Phillips Center will open at 7 p.m., and the program will start at 8 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer session.

If there is an overflow crowd, a video screen will be set up outside the Phillips Center to live-stream Tyson's discussion.

"We had to set up a screen when both Maya Angelou and Elie Wiesel visited, and it surprisingly worked out really well," Holtzman said. "We had about 500 people that would come and either bring chairs or just sit right on the grass."

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