Obama to Leave the White House a Nerdier Place Than He Found It (NY Times)

Photo of woman pointing out aspects of aparatus on a lab bench, with President standing beside her looking on.

Professor Paula Hammond discusses her research with President Barack Obama during his 2009 visit to the MIT campus.

President Barack Obama has evolved in many ways during his eight years in office, both personally and politically. Add now to that list, becoming a self-professed science nerd?  We caught an early glimpse of this leaning when he visited the MIT campus in October 2009, touring several labs, showing “keen interest, quick understanding and warm appreciation,” and giving an address on clean energy.

A recent piece by Gardiner Harris in the New York Times highlights the arc of President Obama’s enthusiastic embrace of science.

President Obama has started initiatives to study the brain and gene-based diseases. He has led attacks on the Ebola virus and antibiotic resistance. Last month, he wrote an academic article in a prominent medical journal.

But the science event many in the White House remember most powerfully was the kid with the marshmallow cannon.

“So would it, like, hit the wall up there?” Mr. Obama asked during the 2012 White House Science Fair when he came upon Joey Hudy, 14, standing before his homemade Extreme Marshmallow Cannon.

“Yeah,” Joey answered.

“Would it stick?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let’s try it,” Mr. Obama said with glee.

And so, for what may have been the first time since the British burned the house down in 1814, a fast-moving projectile hit the State Dining Room wall. The marshmallow did not stick.

He began an annual tradition of science fairs, arguing that if he celebrates the nation’s top athletes at the White House, he should do the same for the best young scientific talent. He often mentions the students he has met at the fairs, including Elana Simon, who at age 12 survived a rare form of liver cancer and before graduating high school helped discover its genetic cause.

Mr. Obama’s presidential science advisory committee has been the most active in history, starting 34 studies of subjects as varied as advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity. Scientists on the committee said they worked so hard because Mr. Obama was deeply engaged in their work.

We took particular note of this statement:

In a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Mr. Obama listed science as one of the few subjects he intended to pursue after the presidency.

So, President Obama: perhaps OCW can help you out here?

Our resources in science and beyond are perfect for self-paced learning, and well-suited to a busy lifestyle (which you’re certain to maintain). Most of the professors whose labs you visited in 2009 have classes on OCW. Whether you’re pursuing new curiosities in retirement, exploring a career transition, or even supplementing a current course of study in school, OCW is ready with a wealth of learning resources.

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