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An Interview with A Wizard: Paul Sutter — COSI’s New Science Chief

Think about Jack Hanna and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, then combine those two and you’ve got Paul Sutter, COSI’s new Science Chief. He’s here to teach Columbus that science is for everyone and it’s a scientist’s job to share that gift. Paul has got a PHD in physics, and spent four years traveling through fellowships in Europe.

“It turns out there’s no jobs in astrophysics,” he said with a bitter smile, “so about three years ago, I started getting more heavily involved in outreach.”

Sutter started a podcast called “Ask a Spaceman” to get into the swing of social outreach, and from there, his popularity as a figurehead and wiseman of science began. One thing leads to another, and COSI calls him up to be their first science darling.

At the time, Sutter was working as a professor and researcher at Ohio State University, while still communicating science to the general public. But now, he has the best (and sometimes the busiest) of both worlds where he works part-time as a professor and part time as COSI’s science wizard — sorry, Science Chief.

Part of his responsibilities include improvised lectures where he gets to gush about his favorite subject, space, at COSI’s planetarium — a cosmic palace for those enthralled by the vastness of the unknown. He also writes and edits the scripts of staff who perform educational and entertaining experiments throughout the museum. But his position doesn’t stop there — Sutter’s position creates a bridge between scientific academia and the general public via Ohio’s favorite science museum.

COSI’s audience is a perfect threshold for an entrance into Columbus’s scientific community, where the layman can understand the world around them and the professional can facilitate that understanding.

“I’ve found that I really do love sharing what I know. I’ve spent a lot of money learning this stuff, so let me just share it with you!” Sutter said.

Sutter went on passionately, saying that children who believe they don’t have the skills to become scientists are wrong, because much like Julia Child said, anyone can science.

“Science isn’t about the math, it’s not even about the scientific method. Those are just tools — it’s about curiosity and taking that passion for curiosity and turning it into a profession.” 

Sutter often speaks at board meetings, children’s groups, and organizational meetings where he motivates people through his passion for his profession to push for their goals and take their initial curiosity to produce innovative careers.

Aside from motivating kiddos to follow their dreams, Sutter’s position helps connect different platforms in Columbus to further provide cultural and public enrichment resources for the general public, like connecting with OSU, or the Franklin Park Conservatory, even the Columbus Museum of Art. It’s all a network that serves to give education back to the community.

“Science is for sharing. Science doesn’t belong to scientists. The general public deserves to have science communicated in a way that they can appreciate. That is their right,” said Sutter.

Photo by Robb McCormick Photography

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