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Alum Brings Big Ideas To Museum

Alum Brings Big Ideas To MuseumWhen he becomes Museum of Science President on Jan. 1, Ioannis Miaoulis plans to leverage his Tufts experience and creativity. Boston.

Boston [12.31.02] While the New Year brings a change of scenery for newly appointed Museum of Science President Ioannis Miaoulis, the Tufts graduate plans to continue his legacy of "big ideas." Creative thinking, says Miaoulis, will be the key to the continued success of the popular Boston landmark.

"I want this to be a place where adults come to explore and understand scientific concepts and participate in debates about technologies," Miaoulis told The Boston Herald, explaining his vision for making the Museum attractive to a broader audience. "This in an intellectual playground of great proportion. I want to make it an exciting place for kids of all ages."

To do that, the former dean of Tufts' School of Engineering plans to call on one of his strengths - creative, innovative thinking.

According to the Herald, Miaoulis' new ideas for the Museum include "establishing a new fine dining restaurant at the museum where diners can listen to talk about the mechanical engineering of food preparation and creating a digital ‘backpack' that lets students download exhibit elements for use on home computers."

He also suggests "designing new exhibits that link disciplines such as science and art - for example, examining the science and engineering concepts behind the construction and performance of musical instruments, or the effect of heat and humidity on the performance of a Steinway piano."

Miaoulis hopes the concepts help inspire investment in the Museum, which serves more than 1.6 million visitors each year.

"Right now we are gearing up for a growth spurt," Miaoulis told the Herald, referring to the institution's upcoming capital campaign. "We are gearing up to excite people to make investments. We will be expanding in a virtual way, with more interactive exhibits."

At the heart of those exhibits will be the Tufts graduate's trademark interest in exploring science from a host of unique perspectives.

"During his 15-year tenure [as a Tufts professor and later dean of Tufts' School of Engineering], he established a fluid mechanics course from a fish's point of view, exploring how aquatic animals use fluid mechanics to propel and feed themselves, and build habitats," reported the Herald. "In a Gourmet Engineering course, students studied the physics of heat transfer in a kitchen - and ate the experiments."

While fun for students, Miaoulis' experiments led to cutting-edge discoveries.

"Miaoulis earned a Presidential Young Investigator Award when he and his students in a biology lab discovered that the thickness and layering of the thin film on the scales of a butterfly's wings maximized the retention of solar heat," reported the newspaper. "That discovery helped scientists structure the wafer-thin layers of silicon on computer chips to prevent the chips from melting during the high-temperature production process."

Miaoulis' work is an example of the collaborative environment at Tufts, which stresses that the solutions to society's most complex problems are likely to be found at the intersection of disciplines. He plans to adopt a similar approach at the Museum of Science.

"I like connecting things not obviously connected," Miaoulis told the Herald. "We create knowledge bubbles - engineering, biology, physics, art, music. But nature is not created that way. It's a continuum. Things fall between the cracks. Most discoveries are hidden in the crevices between fields."

 

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