Why I Volunteer


We asked Science Bowl volunteers why they take time out of a Saturday to work at a competition for middle and high school students.

Here’s what some of them told us:

Brad Wright – A volunteer for five years, at both middle and high school levels, he says, “I think it’s a professional responsibility to pay it forward.” His own interest was sparked by having a math professor as a father. Brad is a Ph.D. organic chemist, specializing in photochemistry. He has been an inventor on many patents, became interested in patent law, and now works as a patent agent with 3M. He was on the volunteer team that heard one of the funny High School Science Bowl final round answers – an intricate math problem that required quick thinking toward the end of a long day. A student buzzed in with his less-than-precise answer: “Really fast.”

Kelly Coleman – A volunteer for two years, he does it because “Seeing all those smart kids restores my faith in the future.” His interest in science was sparked by using DDT in his grandfather’s garden to kill bugs. Now he is a toxicologist in the medical device industry. His favorite Bowl memory this year was a moderator that kept mispronouncing a word, “which made everyone laugh.” He notes that despite having two chemistry degrees, an engineering degree, and a toxicology degree, “I still couldn’t have answered half of those questions!”

Claudia Zierold - This was her first time as a volunteer for Science Bowl -- she learned about the opportunity from a flyer at work. She grew up in Switzerland, where she did not have the educational Fair or Bowl opportunities. Her interest in biochemistry/molecular biology "and all things medical" was developed because of an interest in human health and nutrition that started in high school. She is a Scientific Affairs manager who specializes in vitamin D and bone and mineral testing for DiaSorin. "My favorite part of the Science Bowl was observing the mental process of the kids as they came up with answers." She would have enjoyed more opportunity to interact with the kids, since the morning session flew by. "It was a great experience and, time permitting, I would like to do it again."

William Smith – Has volunteered with the Science Fair, and wanted to increase his activity with Minnesota Academy of Science. He has been moderating at the Science Bowl for two years. He was a child of the 1960s, and the moon race sparked his interest in science. He has specialized in earth and space sciences academically and career-wise, now working as an engineer at Savigent Software. He was grateful to have a biology graduate student on his Bowl volunteer team to help him with tough words. “There’s a whole lot of smart students out there,” he says. “Reading the questions to them for 3.5 hours is always a linguistic challenge.”

Aaron Schulzetenberg – Was a very passionate high school student involved in Knowledge/quiz in his day, “so being able to be a part of something like this is very rewarding.” He has volunteered at the Bowl for three years, at both middle and high school levels. His own interest in science was sparked by writing a paper in high school about gene therapy. “Over the course of researching it, I decided I definitely had to pursue a science degree, despite not being especially strong in math at the time.” He pursued an interest in physical chemistry/chemical physics, including the chemistry of lasers and electronic devices. He, too, appreciated the humorous moments of the Bowl. “One group made jokes about the answer being syn gas when a question was especially difficult, which made me laugh.”

Sean Bartz -- Competed in middle and high school contests when he was younger, including Science Fairs starting in 4th grade. "I want to give the students the opportunity to do the same." He also likes his Macalester college to have a presence even beyond being a host facility. His own interest in science was sparked by "a great demonstration in fifth grade that made me understand the difficulty of Rutherford's experiment that discovered the nucleus -- something that can never be seen directly." He currently studies nuclear physics theory and teaches physics at Macalester. A memorable moment from the recent Science Bowl was when both teams missed a question on the strong nuclear force -- "my area of research."

Jim Wolfe Wood – Has been a volunteer for at least five years at both the middle and high school levels. He enjoys tutoring adults and students. His career, at DiaSorin, is in the immunodiagnostics industry – “although for awhile I worked on fermentation of bacteria for animal vaccines, so I have continued the fun of fermentation by brewing beer.” A favorite Bowl moment was welcoming the Parnassus team, winners of the Middle School Bowl Civility Award, to their next round of competition after the award was given, and getting thanked by Minnesota Academy of Science executive director Celia Waldock for his company’s donation to support the Science Bowls.


-- Mikki Morrissette