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Prof. R.J. Dwayne Miller receives the 2023 ACS’s Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach


R.J. Dwayne Miller, a University Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Physics, was awarded the 2023 Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach

Every year, the American Chemical Society (ACS) Committee on Public Relations and Communications honours a member who has boosted public recognition and appreciation of chemistry. ACS is recognizing Miller for his passion and achievements in science advocacy, education, and outreach.  

15 years of nationwide science festivals 

Miller is the founder, chair, and president of Science Rendezvous (SR). This organization partners with several Canadian universities and research institutions to coordinate and host a large-scale science festival. Every year, attendees of all ages can partake in various hands-on experiments and interactive exhibitions, such as designing circuits or watching drones fly. The SR festival is free and held the day before Mother’s Day to encourage families to visit and emphasize the importance of women in science. 

SR’s goal is to improve student enrolment and public involvement in science. Initially a Toronto-based event, it has expanded to 30 cities across Canada.  Since its inception in 2008, SR has accumulated 1.5 million attendees—becoming the country’s largest one-day science festival.  

“Everyone is born a scientist. All too often this innate curiosity is lost,” Miller says. “Science Rendezvous allows the scientific community to make science truly accessible, to answer the classic question ‘So what’s it good for?’ and allow everyone to discover their inner geek. In the process, we are sowing the seeds for the next generation of brilliant scientists and fostering a culture transformation where people fully appreciate the power of science to make a better world.”

Decades of outreach efforts and advocacy

From 1984 to 1995, Miller was a professor of Chemistry and Optics at the University of Rochester in New York, United States of America. He collaborated with local schools for classroom innovation and student engagement. Namely, he created a simple scanning tunnelling microscope— allowing users to observe atoms directly. Several American schools incorporated these microscopes into their curriculum during the 1990s, giving students an exciting and hands-on classroom experiment. 

Several faculty and staff at the University of Toronto have recognized Miller's dedication to science education. “R.J. Dwayne Miller has been a lifelong advocate for promoting the importance of chemistry,” says former Department of Chemistry Chair Professor Robert Batey. “His outreach efforts have occurred in parallel with a remarkable research career in which he has achieved some great milestones in chemistry.”

A lifelong pursuit of science education in Canada

Miller collaborates with Indigenous and remote communities in Canada to coordinate and develop  outreach events, such as the SR’s Canada Wide Experiment (CWE). Formed in 2013, the CWE runs outdoor activities on aquatic ecosystems and atmospheric sciences for students of all ages, particularly Indigenous youth from on-reserve schools. Notably, all CWE’s initiatives heavily incorporate Traditional Indigenous Knowledge, leading to a diverse and well-rounded outreach event. Furthermore, in 2015, Miller organized and hosted an SR event in the Northwest Territories by consulting with local teachers and research institutes. Overall, Miller is dedicated to promoting science education in every corner of Canada, from urban to rural areas. 

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