10 Years of Science Communication - Empowering Voices in STEM and Medicine

10 Years of Science Communication - Empowering Voices in STEM and Medicine

As the curious and adventurous host of Scientific American Frontiers, Alan Alda created a space where scientists could share their passions, their work and their knowledge with the American people. In the way he asked questions - using improvisational techniques he learned as an actor - Alda built relationships with these brilliant minds based on their common humanity. 

In 2008, Alda began looking for a university that would partner with him and carry on his legacy of making science accessible to all. At the same time, Stony Brook University was exploring ways to combine science and communication in its programs. 

The two naturally came together, and the Center for Communicating Science – now the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science – was established in 2009.

As we mark 10 Years of Science Communication - Empowering Voices in STEM and Medicine, we thank all of the partners who have helped us to build on the Alda Center mission of creating genuine connections through clear and vivid communication. In the past 10 years, the Alda Center has trained 15,000 scientists from around the world in the Alda Method – our ground-breaking combination of empathy, improvisational theater and techniques of message design. Through that training, scientists and medical professionals are better equipped to discuss their work, share their passions, and build the public’s understanding of complex information. 

We invite you to join our celebration as we reflect on our first decade, and prepare for the decades to come.


A brief history of the Alda Center


Alda Center marks its tenth anniversary

Alda Center and Stony Brook University host the annual Applied Improv Network conference to discuss and share the diverse uses of improvisational theater in society

Alda Center publishes its first annual report: Available online here or here as a PDF


Alda Center receives grants from the Simons FoundationChan-Zuckerberg Initiative, Paustenbach Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationthe David & Lucile Packard Foundation, among others.

Alda Center establishes research partnership with George Mason University

Alda Center receives funding to hire an additional postdoctoral associate from Virginia Sea Grant to further expand research initiatives

Alda Center launches the new Alda Medical Experience


Private donations from foundations, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Kavli Foundation, Andrew and Ann Tisch Foundation, Zuckerman Institute, and Rich Reis, among others, allow continued expansion of Alda Center offerings

Alda Center continues to expand research partnerships, including with Michigan State, University of Texas at Austin, ScienceCounts, and others

Alda Center revises medical curriculum; begins offering Power Connection, a program focused on empowering female scientists

Workshops offered in Scotland

Alan Alda publishes “If I Understood You, Would I have this Look on my Face?,” a book about his journey to bring empathetic communication to the world


Laura Lindenfeld, Ph.D., becomes the director of the Alda Center

Expansion of the Alda Center’s workshops and training programs

Alda Center begins to partner with science communication researchers, to stay abreast of latest trends and developments in the field

Private donation from the MJS Foundation  others allow Alda Center to continue to expand

First international Alda Center workshop is held in Australia


Alda Center begins offering Boot Camp program

Workshop bookings increase rapidly

The National Academy of Sciences and National Science Foundation host Alda Center workshops


Alda Center begins communication pilot with NASA


The Kavli Foundation begins its partnership with the Alda Center with a grant and a three-day workshop at Cornell University; allows the launch of the Alda-Kavli Leadership Workshop series, which held workshops for university leaders and leading researchers from around the country

Stony Brook Gala raises $2 million for the Alda Center

Alan Alda gives his name to the Center for Communicating Science

The Alda Center begins to help doctors and medical researchers connect with patients and explain their work through its Medical Training Program


The Alda Center’s inaugural Flame Challenge, where scientists compete to explain familiar but complex concepts to children, is sponsored by the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science


Alda Center begins to offer multi-day workshops to help scientists and researchers explain their work more clearly and vividly

Launch of the first annual Summer Institute to bring together universities and institutions interested in science communication


Center’s first faculty hired; freelance instructors trained

Stony Brook University begins to offer graduate courses in science communication

Center faculty begin offering on-the-road workshops to expand the reach of the Alda Method 

U.S. Department of Education awards $250,0000 to the Center for Communicating Science


Center for Communicating Science is established at Stony Brook University as part of the SBU School of Journalism through a partnership between Alan AldaBrookhaven National Laboratory, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Elizabeth Bass, MPH, becomes the Center's first director

Stony Brook graduate students take pilot courses in science communication 

Center for Communicating Science’s improvisational theater team established