FOJBI Friday: Meet William Chen, Gamer Scientist Joe Palca is not the only fan of "Big Ideas" in science. William Chen has designed a fun board game about climate change in hopes of engaging more laypeople on this important issue.

FOJBI Friday: Meet William Chen, Gamer Scientist

FOJBI William Chen Rachel Lee/Courtesy of William Chen hide caption

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Rachel Lee/Courtesy of William Chen

FOJBI William Chen

Rachel Lee/Courtesy of William Chen

The "Friends of Joe's Big Idea" is a vibrant community of talented people we think you should meet. With our new feature, FOJBI Friday, we're introducing some of these cool communicators of science, in their own words. This week: William Chen.


I'm a Master's student at the University of Washington, in Seattle, using mathematics and statistics to design more efficient water management strategies that mitigate the impacts of dams on rivers and their inhabitants, without sacrificing societal water needs.

Importance Of Science Communication

Scientific literacy is necessary to overcome many of modern society's challenges, such as climate change and the need for a good source of sustainable energy. I think everyone has the capacity to engage with science, and scientists have a responsibility to promote scientific literacy by listening to how non-specialists and non-scientists perceive the world. We need to communicate with the public rather than simply talking at them about science.

Current Projects

I design games about climate change in collaboration with EarthGames UW. Our goal is to make learning about climate change both fun and accessible. My current focus is a board game called AdaptNation. Players learn about the impacts of climate change on natural disasters, and cooperate to adapt to these impacts, lest their cities run out of food, power or water.

I'm also a member of the board of directors for the University of Washington's student-run Engage program, which trains graduate students in how to communicate their research to a general audience. Additionally, we run workshops for scientists in general who are interested in improving their science communication skills.

Future Plans

In the near-future, I want to bring AdaptNation to the classroom as a tool for teaching about climate change, and to game stores as a way to promote scientific engagement. I'm also collaborating on the organization of a Seattle version of the ComSciCon science communication workshop. I'm considering a career in an environmental nonprofit, such as The Nature Conservancy, after I graduate in the spring of 2017. I hope to balance my time among environmental conservation research, public outreach and engagement, and the design of science games.