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Connecting Geeks and Jocks

David Kieda, professor and chair of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah, joins Utes football defensive back Eric Rowe in this poster that is part of the university’s new Sports ‘n Science program aimed at bridging the divide between scientists and atletes.

Sept. 10, 2012 – Scientists and athletes appear to be the strangest of bedfellows in the world of higher education, but the University of Utah is seeking to bridge the divide between geeks and jocks as the university enters a new era as a member of the Pac-12 athletic conference.

A new program called Sports ‘n Science has been created as a unique partnership between the University of Utah’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education and the university’s Athletic Department. The idea is simple: to enhance connections between sports and science in ways that will help students, faculty and the public see that science can deepen our understanding of sports and reach a broad audience through the popularity of athletics.

Sports ‘n Science targets a variety of audiences and brings together athletes and scientists to spread its message through posters, videos, sports events, school visits, summer camps, a video and a website.

The new video – found on the website – juxtaposes scientists and sports figures, and discusses the science behind punting in football. It will be played during each home football game during the upcoming season. The website has been created so visitors can learn more about the science behind their favorite sports (

Nalini Nadkarni, director of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education, and Chris Hill, director of Utah Athletics, together came up with the Sports ‘n Science idea during a conversation about how their organizations might help each other.

“I’ve always wanted the glory that people apply to sports figures and athletic events to somehow meld with the wonder of science and scientists, but that never worked out until I talked to Chris,” says Nadkarni.

“Our athletes are students whose educational mission is enhanced by partnerships like this with other campus departments,” says Hill. “This collaboration will be beneficial to both the fields of sports and science.”

A research component of Sports ‘n Science soon will be added to the program. University researchers will work with K-12 educators and students to evaluate the impact of incorporating sports applications into science education. This research will offer a better understanding of possible tools for enhancing student interest in science learning.

“The program and its website offer a great opportunity to show how relevant science is in everyday activities,” said Jamie Bowen, Sports ‘n Science project manager. “We hope through the program to bring a better awareness of the science in sports and in our daily lives.”

The Center for Science and Mathematics Education was established at the University of Utah in 2009 and brings together the College of Science and College of Education to enhance math and science education at the university and in the community. More information is available at