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Innovation District celebrates scientists, ‘unknown giants among us’

Margie Manning

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While the Tampa Bay Rays shut out the Yankees at Tropicana Field Wednesday night, moving them closer to the American League playoffs, an entirely different type of accomplishment was celebrated just a few blocks away in the shadow of Tropicana Field.

Eight innovators – ranging from physicians to researchers and technologists to artists — showed off their projects at the St. Pete Innovation District’s State of Science at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Research and Education Building.

All are international experts in their field who live, work and play in St. Petersburg, said Alison Barlow, executive director of the Innovation District.

State of Science is designed to recognize “the celebrity of science,” said St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.

“As a community we are largely unaware of their contributions and what comes from these scientists. We know them as our neighbors and our friends, as people in front of us in the grocery checkout line or behind us in traffic. Unlike the celebrities we praise in pop culture, the culture of our innovative science world doesn’t include a lot of accessible insight for those of us not in it,” Tomalin said. “Scientists are unknown giants among us. Think about it. If their contributions were caught on film, we’d clamor for their autographs. Tonight, we’ll get a glimpse into their genius and the ways they are moving our great city forward.”

Tomalin was a key player in launching the Innovation District in her previous job at Bayfront Health System, one of the anchors of the district, along with Johns Hopkins All Children’s and University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

“USF St. Petersburg is all about innovative research. In fact, it’s one of our three core pillars,” said Martin Tadlock, regional chancellor and president of the Innovation District board. “We’re what I would call the quiet secret, which I don’t like. I would like that secret to be out there.”

It was the second State of Science event. Last year’s event focused on life and marine sciences, while this year it was expanded to include all the elements of STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — Barlow said.

“The interconnectivity of STEAM is critical to the interdisciplinary world we live in. Camouflage for soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces was invented by a painter. A pacemaker was based on a musical metronome. Japanese origami inspired medical stents and improvements to vehicle airbag technology. Locally, a tool authenticating seafood is now helping to identify bacteria in hospitals,” Barlow said. “The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that overall employment in the economy will grow by 7.4 percent between 2016 and 2026. However, jobs in STEM fields are expected to grow by 10.8 percent. When you add art to that conversation, the number grows exponentially.”

Click on the gallery to see highlights of State of Science 2019.

State of Science 2019

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