“The work of the Science Gallery Network has never been more important”

Dr. Montgomery brings expertise in research and mentorship and will be the first member of the Science Gallery International board to be appointed by a university in the United States

Dr. Beronda Montgomery has recently been appointed to the board of Science Gallery International, the non-profit organization created to provide the tools and resources needed to power and support the work of the Science Gallery Network. Dr. Montgomery, who currently serves as Michigan State University Foundation Professor, and Interim Assistant Vice President for Research and Innovation, will join the team as the first member of the SGI board to be appointed by a university in the United States, having been a self-described “ardent” supporter of the work of the Science Gallery Detroit since its earliest days. In addition to helping to further develop the research capacity of the Science Gallery Network, Dr. Montgomery is looking forward to helping the Science Gallery engage with and establish a wider network, especially in regions that do not yet have a Science Gallery branch, such as South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. “As a member of the SGI board, I look forward to learning more about the distinctions of the existing sites, additional opportunities for collaboration across the network, as well as plans for expansions into new regions,” she said. 

I look forward to learning more about the distinctions of the existing sites, additional opportunities for collaboration across the network, as well as plans for expansions into new regions.”

Since its beginnings at Trinity in 2008, the Science Gallery has worked to create new partnerships and has even expanded to include seven additional branches around the world, in Atlanta, Bengaluru, Detroit, London, Melbourne, Rotterdam and Venice. Science Gallery International (SGI) was created in 2012 as a way to provide the services and support needed to expand the Science Gallery network and is currently led by Chairman Dr. Patrick Prendergast and Executive Director Dr. Andrea Bandelli. “Having a highly developed Network is so useful to quickly share ideas, projects and initiatives with colleagues from all over the world, and accelerate the process from idea generation to production,” said Dr. Bandelli. “SGI allows the universities and their communities to experiment with new ways of learning, doing research and engaging with society; it is a powerful engine where science and art are not anymore separate disciplines, but become a new, unified creative endeavour.”

Dr. Montgomery also brings with her extensive experience in research, particularly regarding the responses of photosynthetic organisms such as plants and cyanobacteria to external light cues and how this fits into the larger theme of  understanding how individuals perceive, respond to, and are impacted by the environments in which they exist. “Our work with photosynthetic organisms is largely centered in the idea that organisms that spend their entire life in one spot, or a very limited range, must be exquisitely tuned to perceive what is going on around them and to initiate behaviors that promote their success,” she said. “Unlike animals that can move to a new location if things are not optimal, organisms such as the plants and cyanobacteria that we study are masters of adaptation in place.” 

Many of the lessons about awareness of the environment and an ability to translate that knowledge into success-promoting behaviours translate powerfully to lessons about life, mentoring, and even leadership.”

Among Dr. Montgomery’s most fulfilling achievements, however, has been the ability to work with and mentor students, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds. “Many of the lessons about awareness of the environment and an ability to translate that knowledge into success-promoting behaviours translate powerfully to lessons about life, mentoring, and even leadership,” she said. “I love most parts of my job, but understand the power of mentoring and supporting others in pursuing education and their careers as a great responsibility and honor.” 

The insights sparked by the collision of science and art have never been more essential than they are now, when creativity is in all regards our survival tool which allows us to overcome the uncertainties of the pandemic.”

In a community that is so dependent on collaboration and the sharing of ideas, the pandemic and subsequent barriers to social interaction have, essentially, completely changed the playing field on which the Science Gallery carries out its work. However, this has only made the need for innovation and creativity more apparent, and has served as a catalyst for the SGI to continue to design and develop new methods of international cooperation. “The work of Science Gallery – of each gallery and of the whole Network – has never been more important,” said Dr. Bandelli. “Science Gallery enables unbounded creativity and fearless imagination for its audience, which is in significant part high school and university students. The insights sparked by the collision of science and art have never been more essential than they are now, when creativity is in all regards our survival tool which allows us to overcome the uncertainties of the pandemic.”

Dr. Montgomery, too, is optimistic about the prospects of the year ahead and confident that the work of the Science Gallery will be able to continue and improve as the year progresses. “Whereas COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges for most domains of work, certainly the work of SG has pivoted in many sites to allow continued engagement,” she said. “While such disruptions in “business as usual” can represent many challenges, it also affords opportunities for us to think creatively, to engage with technology in new ways, and in so doing to sometimes expand accessibility for engagement.”

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy

Olivia Flaherty-Lovy is the Features Editor of Trinity News, and a Senior Fresh student of English Studies.