When UNC Charlotte’s N.C. Science Festival committee began scouting for guest lecturers who could ignite a spark in the public to the wonders of modern science, it looked no farther than Carl Zimmer.
Zimmer, a science journalist who has written 10 books on topics ranging from the marvels of E. coli bacteria to the mysteries of the brain, has gained respect over the years for bringing science to the masses, especially through “Matter,” his weekly New York Times column that covers contemporary science topics in easy-to-digest articles.
His book, “Parasite Rex,” influenced one reader to become a parasitologist and to thank him by naming a species of tapeworm after him.
“Acanthobothrium zimmeri,” Zimmer said with a chuckle. “It’s fun to have a tiny slice of immortality that way.”
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Zimmer will be a guest speaker at UNCC as part of the university’s events during the N.C. Science Festival, a 2 1/2-week statewide celebration of science and technology.
Activities at UNCC include a series of lectures and films, and cap off with the university’s Science and Technology Expo, a hands-on event that lets the public in on a wide array of experiments.
During his visit to Charlotte, Zimmer will discuss advances in genomic technology that have cut costs by billions, making research more affordable and increasing the likelihood of cutting-edge advances in future medical treatments.
For those who want to get their creep on, he’ll also discuss organisms living on and inside humans.
“It’s a real zoo in our bodies. We have viruses. We have bacteria. We have fungi. We have other kinds of life floating in us,” he said. “And this is when we’re totally healthy.”
Zimmer hopes to unlock the kind of scientific curiosity in others that has served him so well.
“Life is a lot more interesting when you learn about how it works,” he said.