The MadSci Network


The MadSci Network made its debut in September of 1995 as part of Washington University's Young Scientist Program, a student-run organization dedicating to improving science literacy among K-12 students in St. Louis.  Since that time, the site has evolved into an interactive science teaching and community outreach tool, staffed and maintained by volunteer scientists and engineers from around the world. The founders/directors of the current incarnation are Lynn Bry, Kieran Holmes, and Ricky Sethi. The MadSci Network fields questions in 26 different subjects, covering topics in astronomy, the biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, earth sciences, engineering, and physics.  In 1999 alone, more than 900 scientists volunteered their time to answer more than 25,000 questions from K-12 students and the general public.

Today, roughly 40% of all questions come from outside of North America, with more than two-thirds of all questions coming from K-12 students.  MadSci continues its mission to share knowledge with students of all ages and other life-long learners through our free ask-an-expert service and associated web-based resources.  We act as a fun educational resource for kids in grades K-12, while encouraging older students to pursue careers in science- and engineering-related fields.  We are also a credible resource of information for the general public and our network motivates our volunteers to continue learning by teaching others.

Our main focus has been our free Ask-An-Expert service, which receives 90-150 questions a day from visitors in the U.S. or as far away as Malaysia, Chile and even Antarctica.  The people asking questions are as young as 4 years to as old as 88 years of age.  Examples include:

Why do grapes spark in the microwave?
Why do frogs pee on me when I pick them up?
What is happening when root beer is added to vanilla ice cream?
When you get a black eye, why does it swell up?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
What do chemical engineers do?
Why canít I get this song out of my head?

More than 35 (globally located) moderators assist with the maintenance of the site.  Nearly 800 scientists, also globally distributed, provide answers to your questions.  As with other "Ask-A-Scientist" sites, we rely on a dedicated group of people to answer questions.  Many of these individuals are completing undergraduate and graduate levels of education. Our site also draws upon the substantial expertise of scientists in academia, in industry and at government agencies including NASA and the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The interactions with K-12 students work advantageously, both for the purposes of science education, and for the purpose of increasing their computer literacy.

MadSci's additional online resources include:

the MAD Labs - which describe edible and inedible experiments, require a mere rummaging of the kitchen cabinets to perform, in addition to a guided tour of the human body based on images from the Visible Human Project;
the Random Knowledge Generator, a fun way to browse through a few of the questions we have answered;
MadSci FAQs, which details information about subjects from sneezing to growing bacteria to the Daphnia water flea; and
the MadSci Library, a diverse collection of links to science sites, career information and demonstrations which provide additional starting points for exploring the wealth of science-related information on the World Wide Web.
We make each of these resources freely available to the public.

The MadSci site has received notoriety from organizations including the U.S. Department of Education, Science magazine, New Scientist, and the BBC.  We have received numerous awards from organizations including The San Francisco Exploratorium (Ten Cool Sites in general science) and Omni Cool Science Site, and have won Popular Scienceís Best of the Web for three years in a row.  In 2000, we were nominated for a Webby Award in Science.

As always, "We're looking for a few good heads!" If you have an email address, access to the WWW and an interest in telling others about the wonders of science, we invite you to join our efforts!  Information and an online sign-up form live at http://www.madsci.org/join/.

Further questions and inquiries concerning the MadSci Network may be addressed to webadmin@madsci.org.

Next: Organization and Personnel involved with the maintenance of our site.



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Last modified Sat March 03 17:01:23 2001