“I think I’m a little bit neurotic,” said the executive director of Arizona SciTech Festival. “I’m always thinking, ‘Was my day spent effectively?’ ‘Have I done the most I could during my day.’” Photo by Robin Sendele, AZ Big Media
SciTech Festival director plants seeds of innovation
Science advocate. Executive director of Arizona SciTech Festival. Assistant research professor at both Arizona State University and University of Arizona chemistry and biochemistry departments. Married with four children. All those accomplishments are listed on Jeremy Babendure’s impressive resume.
Most impressive is how Babendure established the SciTech Festival in 2012 and had helped build a state-wide celebration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The festival returns in February.
“I wanted to have an impact on the community and have the ability to do something that was meaningful,” the 35-year-old said.
After finding his passion for science in high school, Babendure received a Flinn Foundation Scholarship, which covered all four years of tuition, room and board and is an incentive for Arizona’s brightest students to remain in state for college. Babendure got his undergrad degree in chemistry and biochemistry at Arizona State University and his Ph.D. in biomedical sciences at University of California San Diego.
“As an undergrad, I made a sensor in how to detect how DNA folds around histones,” Babendure said. “It’s just kind of like a fun puzzle.”
After graduate school, Babendure helped launch the ScienceBridge program at UCSD, which created a pathway to bring hands-on science to students, teachers and the general public. Finding grants and helping start the San Diego science festival was a key part of the program. The experience gave Babendure and idea.
“Well Arizona is my home,” he thought. “Why can’t I help Arizona families and kids?”
Babendure used the experience he gained in San Diego to drive the Arizona SciTech Festival, which now has 18 regional initiatives, nearly 700 events and 65 sponsors.
“Our hope is to promote a culture of innovation in Arizona,” Babendure said. “People see sports as an important thing, so how do we get then to see science and technology the same way? It doesn’t exist unless people do events, unless people really own it and create a collective effort to make it happen.”