N.C. science museum gets new official, $1.5M gift

Posted July 13, 2010 1:29 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2010 4:58 p.m. EDT

Money generic, dollars

— The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Tuesday introduced the director of its new Nature Research Center and accepted a $1.5 million gift to support the center.

Margaret D. “Meg” Lowman will oversee the center, which will bring research to the forefront and highlight current scientific issues that affect people's daily lives when it opens late next year. Lowman helped pioneer the science of canopy ecology, designing hot-air balloons and walkways for treetop exploration while studying the links between insects and ecosystem health.

“Meg’s international network and passion for science have continually led her into leadership roles, where she seeks best practices to solve environmental challenges. We are delighted to have her at the helm of our new wing,” museum Director Betsy Bennett said in a statement.

Lowman will oversee the center’s research agenda, participate in fundraising efforts and assist with the integration of existing museum programs. As her first order of business, Lowman accepted a $1.5 million grant from the GlaxoSmithKline Foundation to support health and science exhibits, educational programs and a hands-on micro-investigation laboratory in the Nature Research Center.

The center will provide students, teachers and the general public with the opportunity to meet and directly learn from scientists in an effort to help demystify research. In the micro-investigation lab, for example, visitors will learn how to view DNA samples under a powerful electrophoresis microscope, study sequences, structures and interactions, learn how to isolate a DNA strand from the nucleus of a cell and even compare it with other DNA to confirm or deny the identity of a species.

Lowman will hold a joint appointment as research professor of natural sciences at North Carolina State University, where she will focus on initiatives involving communicating science to the public.