24 May 2012

Longtime Outreach Director Pat Dixon retires


After 15 years at the MagLab, Pat Dixon is retiring.

Pat Dixon.Pat Dixon is retiring after 15 years at the MagLab.“I feel very proud of what we have accomplished and the people we have worked with,” said Dixon, the director of the Center for Integrating Research & Learning (CIRL), the lab’s educational outreach division. “The thing I’m the most proud of is the graduate students and what they have accomplished. We provided the vehicle for them to do research and publish and become involved in informal science education.”

She will be missed, said Greg Boebinger, the lab’s director.

“Pat embraced the idea that research programs of a certain size must have an outreach component, building CIRL into a national resource for science education and science research,” he said. “I have great respect for her influence in this field.”

Dixon, an associate scholar-scientist, helped the center grow from a two-person operation to a staff of seven highly influential educators who work with more than 10,000 students annually. The group’s educational research arm — in which staff evaluate the effectiveness of science outreach, students’ attitudes toward science and other important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) benchmarks and concerns — is nationally influential. Dixon’s ability to establish and nurture partnerships that grow into funding opportunities and cooperative programming has also extended the group’s reach.

She first came to the Magnet Lab in the summer of 1996 to help create a curriculum built around magnets and magnetism. In the spring of 1997, she left her job as a middle-school science teacher to work full time at the MagLab and help launch MagLab Alpha. MagLab Alpha was the lab’s first middle-school magnet-science curriculum, and was distributed throughout Florida.

“We were really proud of it,” Dixon recalled.

Under her leadership, the center’s programs have expanded to include the lab’s popular SciGirls summer camp. Created in 2006, SciGirls is a two-week camp for middle-school girls run jointly by the center and WFSU. The girls experience a wide range of science activities, from lab experiments and data collection to snorkeling and hiking.

Another enormously popular program, Research Experiences for Teachers, was also started under Dixon’s tutelage. The program, which began in 1999, offers K-12 teachers a chance to spend six weeks working with a MagLab scientist and experience the latest in cutting-edge research. The residential summer program pays a stipend of $3,600 and some travel reimbursements and provides housing.

Visit the lab's Facebook page to view photos of Dixon’s going-away party.