Hi, nice to meet you!
Updated: Sep 14
…The pleasure is all mine...
It’s always nice to put a face with a name and learn a little bit more about a person before meeting them. Here at the Science Museum of Long Island we feel the same way and have four fantastic teachers we’d like you to get to know a little bit more about them. They have diverse backgrounds, hail from different places and have different experiences. They bring all of that and more to the Science Museum to help the next generation of scientists learn more about the world around them in many fun, educational and hands on ways.
Frank DiGiovanni, Bill Lindmark, and Sofia Walzer are the educators here on a full-time, day-to-day basis and the ones your child(ren) will most likely meet any time they’re here. We are also very happy to have Helene Bartsch back, as a part-time Educator as well! Field trips, scout badges, summer camp and holiday programs (held when there’s no school), after school and outreach programs are part of their teaching repertoire here at SMLI.
We asked them a few questions so you can get to know them a little bit before you bring your kid(s) here.
Helene Bartsch, Educator
Where is your education from and what is it in? I earned my Bachelor of Science at the University of New Hampshire in Environmental Conservation and Sustainability with a minor in Studio Art. When the pandemic started, I decided to go back to school to study map making and finished with a Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Science. One of my favorite things that I did with my certificate is I made my own humpback whale maps showing how their migratory routes have changed over the past 30 years in relation to climate change.
Why did you chose that area of study and why it’s important to you? In high school I would learn about how climate change is affecting us on land, but there was never a strong emphasis on how much marine environments are being negatively affected as well. This led me to choosing my major because I wanted to learn more about climate change, ecosystems, and the steps we can all take to help make a difference in our changing world. As humans, we must take accountability for our actions and do as much as we can to make the world a better place for all of the animals and ecosystems that surround us.
What drove you to study your area of science? I first got drawn to the world of science in my junior year of high school. We had to write a research paper and I decided to do mine on whales in captivity and how being taken from their natural habitat negatively effects their quality of life. This truly began my love of science, whales, and the marine environment. Since then, I have done several internships with different whale watching organizations and have found my love for education and advocacy. One of the best lessons that I’ve learned through the years is that in order to gain knowledge about something, you don’t necessarily have to have it in your possession. You can learn about a whale by seeing it in the wild just as you can learn about a tree by seeing it outside instead of cutting it down.
Why do you like STEM? I like STEM because the possibilities are endless. Hands on learning is one of my favorite parts of this field because I feel that you can understand a topic much better when you have a part in doing it yourself. There are so many different hats you can wear in the STEM field, sometimes more than one. You get to be creative and curious and learn something new and have fun in the process.
Coolest science thing you’ve done/been to/helped with/etc. I had the chance to participate in a research trip with Allied Whale where we took a small boat up to Canada for four days in which we got really close to the whales and take biopsies of several individuals. There are many regulations for how close you can get to whales when you are on a commercial trip, however, since this was for research, we got special permits which allowed us to get very close to collect data. So close that we could smell their stinky breath!
Frank DiGiovanni, Educator & blog writer
Where is your education is from and what is it in? My undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education with a concentration in Science from SUNY Plattsburgh and my Master’s in in Special Education from Dowling College.
Why you chose that area of study and why it’s important to you? I became an Elementary Teacher because of my love of working with children and I earned a concentration in science so I would be able to use and teach it on a daily basis; it is also the foundation of our everyday lives. From hydrology to astronomy, so much of what we wonder about is answerable through some kind of science.
What drove you to study your area of science? My grandfather, mother and father were all the main reasons I got into education, but it was my mother and grandfather who fanned the flames for my love of science. I even got a book as a gift called "The Way Things Work” by Neil Ardley and David Macaulay because I had so many questions that my mom and dad couldn’t readily answer.
Why you like STEM? I like STEM because there are so many areas that can be studied to help satisfy my own curiosity and the curiosity of the students who come through the doors of SMLI. Plus, when teaching STEM topics there’s nothing better than watching a student go “WOAH!” because of something they weren’t expecting happened or because they made something happen through their own experimentation.
Coolest science thing you’ve done/been to/helped with/etc? In 2016, I went on a cruise as part of the finals of an international, STEM-based innovation contest for high school students I used to run. The finalists sailed from Miami, Florida to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and while onboard the cruise to the Dominican, the final round was held. Plus, while in the DR, we did philanthropic events like helping pour cement foundations for families with only dirt floors, visited local schools and helped create water filtration devices for homes that had no running water.
Lastly. I always tell my students that it’s okay to be wrong, or not know the answer to something. It’s what you do about that ignorance or incorrect answer that makes the difference. Failure is always an option but if you learn from that failure, you’re a success.
Bill Lindmark, Educator & Program Manager
Where is your education is from and what is it in? I earned my Bachelor of Science in Biology from Georgia Tech, where I concentrated on microbiology and psychology. My MBA was focused on the healthcare industry and earned from Georgetown University.
Why you chose that area of study and why it’s important to you? My studies have always been focused on how I can ensure my work has the greatest possible impact on improving the lives of others. I entered college in the school of engineering with an undeclared major. Sciences in general had piqued my interest, but I was jealous of those that had a pre-planned career path laid out in their heads. Eventually the systems of the human body and real-world implications of biotechnology stood out to me as an exciting opportunity to help people. I particularly liked learning about the evolutionary arms race between infectious diseases and the human body's immune system.
What drove you to study your area of science? My mother had originally worked in the telecom industry after being scared away from a career in education. When she decided to rejoin the workforce after a decade as a stay-at-home mom, she went back to school and became a teacher. I was always impressed with how rewarding she found teaching students, after persevering through so many obstacles that kept her from her chosen profession. She also taught me to leave a place better than I found it, so I hope that we can teach future generations to do so with nature!
Why you like STEM? STEM provides both a rigid lens through which to critically think through problem solving, but also creative outlets to imagine solutions to some of the world's largest challenges. It's interesting to learn how others have pushed scientific knowledge to evolve over time. It's exciting to be a part of increasing our current breadth of knowledge and challenging old perceptions of our limitations.
Coolest science thing you’ve done/been to/helped with/etc.? My first job out of college gave me the opportunity to work in a Harvard professor's photobiology lab, where I was able to pick the accomplished brains of his post-doctoral students. I was able to independently run microbiology experiments, which gave me unparalleled autonomous lab experience. Somehow, I was trusted by hospitals to operate a laser twice my size to emit blue light into saline spheres within the stomach of patients, who were infected with a carcinogenic bacteria that would be killed by the light. However, I was more interested in how our CEO was translating the data from our results to explain to investors how we could find a path forward to creating a business that would help many patients. This set me on a path to enjoying the trials and tribulations of translating business pressures to scientists and scientific constraints to those who are more business minded.
Sofia Walzer, Educator
Where is your education is from and what is it in? I earned my Bachelor of Science from Cornell University, where I majored in biology and double-minored in climate change and environment and sustainability. I am particularly interested in marine biology and conservation.
Why you chose that area of study and why it’s important to you? I have always loved being outside, from spending time at the beaches in Long Island to gardening in my own backyard. Going into college, I wanted to better understand the natural processes happening around me. We are entirely dependent on our natural resources, and yet, there is a huge disconnect between society and nature. I hope to help to bridge this gap.
What drove you to study your area of science? I am particularly drawn to the ocean because of its vast mystery. I became truly enthralled by the underwater world when I first scuba-dived in Hawaii at the age of 13. I had never felt so connected to other life around me. I feel a sense of responsibility to protect marine ecosystems in the hopes that others can experience this, too. We also depend on the ocean’s natural resources and the oxygen it provides for our very survival, and yet, there is still much ocean exploration and learning to do.
Why you like STEM? I have always been a scientist at heart, asking questions about everything and anything around me. STEM feeds my sense of adventure and wonder.
Coolest science thing you’ve done/been to/helped with/etc? I worked at the Coral Restoration Foundation in the Florida Keys to help restore Florida’s coral reef. This involved scuba diving 3 to 4 days per week to grow and outplant corals onto nearby reef sites. I also lead citizen science programs where local recreational divers could get involved in the project.
Without the staff, their ideas, research, dedication and teaching, we wouldn’t be able to help inspire the next generation and show them just how amazing the world around them really is! Remember to check the SMLI website (www.smli.org) for information about Holiday Workshop programs, summer camp and other programs we offer.
Hope to see you in the future and keep wondering about the world around you!