Dr. Ioannis N. Miaoulis
President and Director, Museum of Science, Boston
On January 1, 2003, Ioannis (Yannis) N. Miaoulis, became President and Director of the Museum of Science, Boston. Originally from Greece, Dr. Miaoulis, now 47, came to the Museum after a distinguished association with Tufts University. There, he was Dean of the School of Engineering, Associate Provost, Interim Dean of the University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering. In addition to helping Tufts raise $100 million for its engineering school, Miaoulis greatly increased the number of female students and faculty, designed collaborative programs with industry, and more than doubled research initiatives. Founding laboratories in Thermal Analysis for Materials Processing and Comparative Biomechanics, he also created the Center for Engineering Educational Outreach and the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program.
An innovative educator with a passion for both science and engineering, Miaoulis championed the introduction of engineering into the Massachusetts science and technology public school curriculum. This made the Commonwealth first in the nation in 2001 to develop a K-12 curriculum framework and assessments for technology/engineering. At Tufts, he originated practical courses based on students’, and his own, passions for fishing and cooking: a fluid mechanics course from the fish’s point of view and Gourmet Engineering, where students cook in a test kitchen, learn about concepts such as heat transfer, and then eat their experiments.
His dream is to make everyone, both men and women, scientifically and technologically literate. Miaoulis has seized the opportunity as the Museum’s president to achieve his vision, convinced science museums can bring interested parties in government, industry, and education together to foster a scientifically and technologically literate citizenry. One of the world’s largest science centers and Boston’s most attended cultural institution, the Museum of Science is ideally positioned to lead the nationwide effort. The Museum drew 1.5 million visitors in the fiscal period ending June 30, 2008, including 226,000 school children, and served 100,000 more students in traveling and overnight programs. Receiving the Massachusetts Association of School Committees’ 2005 Thomas P. O’Neill Award for Lifetime Service to Public Education, the Museum was also ranked #3 of the 10 best science centers in 2008 by Parents Magazine, one of the top two most visited hands-on science centers on Forbestraveler.com’s “America’s 25 most visited museums” list in 2006, and one of the top two science museums in the Zagat Survey’s “U.S. Family Travel Guide.”
With the Museum’s Boards of Trustees and Overseers, Miaoulis spearheaded creation of the National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®) at the Museum in 2004. Supported by corporate, foundation, and federal funds, the NCTL aims to enhance knowledge of engineering and technology for people of all ages and to inspire the next generation of engineers, inventors, and scientists. The Museum of Science is the country’s only science museum with a comprehensive strategy and infrastructure to foster technological literacy in both science museums and schools nationwide. Through the NCTL, the Museum is creating technology exhibits and programs and integrating engineering as a new discipline in schools via standards-based K-12 curricular reform. The NCTL has been in contact with interested parties in 50 states. A 2006 $20 million gift from the Gordon Foundation, established by Sophia and Bernard M. Gordon, endorses the Museum’s vision to transform the teaching of engineering and technology. The largest single individual gift in the Museum’s 175 years, the Gordon gift will help educate young people to be engineering leaders. The Museum has also been able to create the Gordon Wing, headquarters of the NCTL and home of the Museum’s Exhibits and Research & Evaluation teams. Designed to be “green,” the wing is the Museum’s largest building project since 1987.
Recognizing that a 21st century curriculum must include the human-made world, the NCTL advances technological literacy in schools by helping states modify their educational standards and assessments, by designing K-12 engineering materials, and by offering educators professional development. The NCTL’s Engineering is Elementary curriculum has reached over 9,300 teachers and 484,000 students in 50 states (and Washington, DC). In 2007, the Museum launched its first school textbook publishing partnership, introducing the Engineering the Future® high school course and reaching teachers and students in 18 states. A Building Math middle school course, created with Tufts University, has reached teachers and students in 29 states.
The Museum’s approach to informal technology education calls for a Technology Showcase presenting the latest research and technology, a Creativity Workshop addressing hands-on problem-solving with technology and invention, and a Forum focusing on critical science and technology issues and decision-making. The Museum’s Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination exhibition, created with Lucasfilm Ltd., and funded in part by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is touring museums nationally, promoting technological literacy to over 1.25 million people.
Miaoulis also leads the Museum’s life sciences initiative, strengthening current offerings with exhibits like Beyond the X-Ray and Human Evolution, and testing prototypes for exhibits and programs related to advances in medical technology and research. All these efforts will be integrated into a landmark exhibit and activities. A 2006 $2 million contribution from Genzyme Corporation to create the Genzyme Biotechnology Education Initiative is the largest single corporate gift in the Museum’s history, the largest philanthropic gift in Genzyme’s history, and the first major philanthropic commitment to the Museum’s life sciences initiative.
Meanwhile in 2008, enlivening the Museum’s natural history roots, Dr. Miaoulis oversaw the unveiling of one of the world’s rarest dinosaur fossil finds, a near-complete Triceratops, which is on a seven-year loan from an anonymous Museum enthusiast. Another important element in Miaoulis’s vision involves enhancing the overall Museum experience for everyone, paying special attention to attracting adults, females, and underserved audiences. Since 2003, the Museum has opened two new attractions: Butterfly Garden, filled with hundreds of live butterflies, and the 3-D Digital Cinema, as well as a renovated Mugar Omni Theater. He has also led the transformation of the Museum’s eateries into a new Museum Café, supervised by its catering and food service provider, renowned chef-restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.
Under Miaoulis’s leadership, the Museum has strengthened its financial position, diversifying its revenue sources and increasing its annual operating budget by 47 percent. In 2005, the Museum of Science, in partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Exploratorium in San Francisco, was selected by the NSF to lead a $20 million effort to form a national Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Network) of science museums and research institutions. In the fiscal period ending June 30, 2008, the Museum’s Annual Fund exceeded $2.5 million, individual/family memberships surpassed $4.2 million, and member households reached 42,000. Gifts and pledges for NCTL-led formal and informal technology education initiatives have surpassed $55 million, underlining the importance of the Museum’s strategy for science, engineering, and technology education.
Exploring with national leaders how the Museum can help further to educate students, Miaoulis speaks often on science and technology literacy. Examples include testifying at a U. S. Senate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) caucus and before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology, Innovation, and Competitiveness, as well as keynoting at numerous education reform conferences nationwide.
Miaoulis earned bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering and a master’s in economics at Tufts, and received a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has published over 100 research papers and holds two patents. He has also been honored with awards for his research efforts and community service, including the Presidential Young Investigator award, the Allan MacLeod Cormack Award for Excellence in Collaborative Research, the William P. Desmond Award for outstanding contributions to Public Education, the Boston Jaycees Outstanding Young Leader Award, and a Mellon Fellowship. A former WGBH Trustee, Miaoulis has co-chaired the Mass. Technology/Engineering Education Advisory Board. Named in 2006 by President George W. Bush to the National Museum and Library Services Board, Miaoulis is also on Mass. Governor Deval Patrick’s Commonwealth Readiness Project Leadership Council, charged with creating a plan to improve statewide public education. Miaoulis is a member of the Boards of Trustees of Wellesley College and Tufts University and in 2007 was appointed to the NASA Advisory Council by NASA administrator Michael Griffith.