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Wisconsin Science Festival: Coming to backyards, living rooms and sites statewide Oct. 21-24


Special promotional content provided by Wisconsin Science Festival.

“Scientists are people, too,” says Julia Nepper, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery where she studies the soil microbiome. “We’re just trying to make a living, trying to do something we think is fun and make a difference in the world.” 

Dr. Julia Nepper.

“It’s just specialized knowledge. Anyone can be a scientist. Anyone can learn this stuff.”

The four-day Wisconsin Science Festival – held October 21-24 – is a great opportunity to meet local scientists like Julia and discover some of the unexpected ways science, culture and art empower our lives. 

The festival celebrates science in communities throughout Wisconsin with many free activities for the young, the old and everyone in between. Offerings include hands-on activities, talks with scientists, films, performances, nature hikes, virtual programs, take-home science kits and so much more.

All are welcome to drop in on dozens of events, discover at their own pace and keep the conversation going on social media. Exploring the power of knowledge and creativity to change our worldview is a vision of the festival.

Julia has been involved with the Wisconsin Science Festival for six or seven years – first as a graduate student at UW-Madison, then as a science writer at local biotech company Promega and this year as a postdoc.

She has designed and led exploration station activities for kids and families at the Discovery Expo, held at the Discovery Building in pre-pandemic years. This time around, her science fest activities will focus on her favorite outreach audience – science-curious adults.

Julia is part of Ben Rush’s Deeper Than Data podcast, which shares the personal side of science by highlighting the struggles, personal accomplishments and personalities of scientists. Through storytelling and humor, Deeper than Data explores scientists’ personal journeys, failures and successes.

This year, Deeper Than Data will be at Science on the Square, held in downtown Madison on Friday, October 22, from 5 to 9 p.m. The ever-popular Wisconsin Science Festival event features prizes, surprises and more showcasing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and local businesses. For its fourth year, Science on the Square is fusing with the Madison Night Market to create a unique way to explore hands-on science activities while also supporting local businesses and vendors. 

At the Deeper Than Data tent, located near the main Wisconsin Science Festival tent on State Street, Julia will be spreading the word about the podcast. She will also be offering visitors to the tent a chance to share something they’ve learned or something they thought was cool about the science festival. The comments will be recorded for a future special edition of Deeper Than Data, “giving them an opportunity to potentially have their 15 seconds of fame.”

Originally from North Carolina, Julia has always been interested in investigating things and as a child could usually be found digging in the dirt or reading a book. Today, her research explores the soil microbiome, the dynamic microscopic world beneath our feet. 

She found her passion for science communication and science outreach in grad school.

“I love talking about science. I love learning about science. And I love talking to people. So, by the transitive property, I love talking to people about science. It’s probably one of my favorite things to do.”

She sees podcasts like Deeper Than Data as a useful tool for science outreach. “It’s a really great way to engage with an adult audience,” says Julia. 

“A lot of formal outreach tends to be targeted towards children. But there are a lot of adults out there who are very interested in and want to get excited about science. And I think that a podcast is a pretty accessible way to do that.” 

Everyone is welcome to join us at the Wisconsin Science Festival October 21-24 to check out Deeper Than Data and hundreds of other events. Don’t miss your chance to connect with science in your community!

About the Wisconsin Science Festival

Held this year on October 21-24, the four-day Wisconsin Science Festival is a statewide celebration with events across Wisconsin for people of all ages. Hybrid, hands-on and virtual events include science exhibitions, demonstrations, book talks, performances, tours, nature explorations, workshops and more, and most of them are free.

About Science on the Square

At Science on the Square, held in downtown Madison on Friday, October 22, from 5 to 9 p.m., outdoor STEM-themed activities will mix with Madison Night Market vendor tents throughout State Street, featuring live music, artists, special visiting food carts and pop-up restaurant experiences. Vendors, including those from Night Market partner the Ujamaa Business Network, will showcase handmade products, local art, artisan gifts, prepackaged foods and fresh produce. Plus, hunt for hidden Beeslys for a chance to earn great prizes!