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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Experimenting With Megan Amram

By Phil Plait

Being funny is hard. But Megan Amram is good at it.

She was a writer for Parks and Rec, and I could probably stop there because cripes, do you need anything else on your CV? But it’s important to note that the show straddled a fine line between satire and sweet, snarky and sincere, and did so masterfully.

Amram is continuing that tradition: She has a new Web series called “Experimenting With Megan Amram,” which just started up on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls YouTube channel. The premier episode is up, and I really enjoyed it:

I laughed a lot watching this; Amram skates perfectly on the line between parodying terrible and fatuous women’s talk shows and actually presenting good science info in a positive and funny way. And she does all this while also supporting women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). That’s quite a balancing act.

Not only that, but she also provides instructions on how to make the potato clock (which is a real thing, and a staple of middle school science classes).

She’ll have a female STEM professional as her guest every week,* which is terrific; women are underrepresented in almost all STEM fields, and I think just giving a higher profile to them will help. Getting more role models in front of young girls at the very least can’t hurt. Besides Amram herself, of course; while not technically a working scientist (though she wears a lab coat!) she loves science and math, and grew up in a science-oriented family. And she does have a degree from Harvard University, apparently, which is probably worth something.

New episodes come out every Monday, and the only thing I don’t like about the series is that only six episodes are planned. Happily, Amram has a book out called Science … for Her!, which I have not read yet but I will because (full disclosure) she’s sending me a copy so I kinda have to. Honestly I’ve been meaning to read it anyway, because it looks really funny and has enough snark to power a small town.

You also should follow Amram on Twitter, if only because of her avatar. And check out Poehler’s Smart Girls website, especially if you are or know a young woman who’s interested in STEM. And really, even if she isn’t interested. Maybe it’ll change her mind.

P.S. While I'm at it, this Kickstarter for a STEM video series/investigation kit designed specifically for girls looks very cool. It has about a day left and is already funded, so it'll go for sure, but I imagine a lot of teachers out there might be interested in signing up. Hat tip to my pal Tara Theoharis.

*Hopefully one will be a cartographer so she can look for Miami, England. I won’t give away who the guests are, but hint hint.

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