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Making a Career out of a Passion for Outreach


With the support of the National Science Foundation, Materials Creation Training Program (MCTP), Tahani Zeid had the opportunity to intern at Iridescent in Los Angeles, a science education non-profit organization leading to starting an Iridescent office in Boston, MA. Iridescent targets underserved minorities, and inspires them to see themselves as scientists and engineers. During her internship with Iridescent, Tahani was in charge of running a full Family Science program at Melrose Elementary School and establishing connections with community-based organizations.

The Family Science Program, one of the organization’s core programs, is aimed to reach out to underserved minorities in the local communities, specifically children in elementary school and their families. The program takes place once a week at the elementary schools, and consists of a short presentation of a scientific or engineering concept, followed by a hands-on activity developed to explore the concept, and encourages students to follow the engineering process of designing, testing and redesigning. Unlike other programs, Family Science includes the whole family, helping the parents understand the excitement behind science and closing the gap between them and their children.

In general, Family Science instructors are engineers from the University of Southern California (USC) enrolled in a class called Engineers as Teachers that is taught by a member of Iridescent. The USC engineers develop lessons plans, design an experiment, compile a materials list and teach the class every week. However, Melrose Elementary school is not one of the schools Iridescent targets, but the families at Melrose greatly appreciate the program and specifically request it every year. Traditionally, the program at Melrose is run by volunteers from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Hence, this year, Tahani was in charge of running the program, including advertising the program at Melrose Elementary School, organizing UCLA volunteers, holding training sessions, assembling materials for the classes and teaching most of the sessions.

In addition, Tahani broadened the impact of the program beyond the time period that the program takes place. This was done by establishing partnerships with community-based organizations such as libraries. By holding workshops at the library for families in the community, Iridescent demonstrates what a typical family science program would be like. These workshops raise awareness of the program and inform the community members of the space and resources at Iridescent available to them for science exploration.

Address Goals

Tahani’s experience during the internship immersed her in the Iridescent culture, and allowed her to contribute to their mission and vision. In such a small non-profit organization, she learned how to wear many hats and jump in to do what is necessary. The experience was very successful as Tahani proved to be a good fit for the organization, and was vested with the responsibility of starting a satellite office in Boston, MA to run another one of the core programs called Technovation Challenge. Tahani’s previous experiences in outreach with the MCTP/IGERT provided her with the skills and confidence to move into this new educational role. Tahani states that without MCTP support and encouragement of interdisciplinary work, she might have chosen a more traditional academic-oriented internship, and would not have had the opportunity to both teach and develop new teaching strategies to this underserved population.