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EPPWS department adds film festival to outreach events

Inspired by May Berenbaum at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, who recently won the National Medal of Science not only for her contributions to science, but her public outreach about science, Gerald Sims, department head of the Entomology, Plant Pathology and Weed Science Department along with Scott Bundy, professor of entomology decided to bring a bug film festival to New Mexico State University.

“For our purposes here, the film festival became a proven way to draw members of the community to campus and promote enthusiasm for science as part of an overall effort to enhance scientific literacy,” Sims said. “Dr. Bundy wanted to bring this idea to Las Cruces, and I, having worked at the University of Illinois for 20 years, attended that film festival at least 10 times, and knew it was a great idea.”

The first event was in November 2013, featuring the movie “Tremors,” a film about giant underground worms, where Steve Thomas, distinguished professor of nematology used as part of his presentation showing a giant preserved parasitic nematode to wow the audience.

In November 2014, at the second event, Bundy served as the host, showing “Arachnophobia and Eight Legged Freaks.”

This concept provides a platform for NMSU professors to show their expertise with informative sessions about plants, microbes and insects, serving as recruiting tool as well.

“Our reason for adopting the film festival idea was that it has been shown to work elsewhere. Campy movies about insect, worm, plant or microbial monsters are fun and enticing,” Sims said. “It is a pleasant way to draw members of the community in to the academic environment where they can become more familiar with the human side of academia and learn some science in the process. It is also a good way to expose youth to scientific careers that they ordinarily might not think of.”

As he prepares for the festival’s third year, Sims hopes for attendance growth as a way to connect with the community and make people feel more comfortable about accessing campus resources.

“Interest appears to be growing on campus and in the Las Cruces Public Schools as we become better at advertising the event,” he said. “ Many members of our department participate in the community in a variety of ways, but this film festival is a way to bring the community to us.”