Pie a PI

Faculty from left to right (top photo): Dan Kessler, Chris Lengner, Joe Baur, Jean Bennett, Ben Prosser, Mary Mullins

March holds a beloved holiday for nerds all around the world: Pi Day. The classic way to celebrate this holiday is through feasting on pie, but here in CAMB we put a twist on this tradition. For the third year in a row, the CAMB Student Newsletter team hosted its annual “Pie a PI” event on Thursday, March 14. As the name suggests, this event involves gathering round and watching CAMB faculty members get pies thrown in their faces. In the days leading up to Pi Day, those wanting to pie a PI purchased $1 raffle tickets to enter for the chance to be one of the lucky pie throwers. The brave targets this year were CAMB faculty members Mary Mullins (DSRB), Jean Bennett (GTV), Joe Baur (CPM), Ben Prosser (CPM), Chris Lengner (DSRB), and Dan Kessler (chair-CAMB).

While “Pie a PI” is a great way for students and post docs to have fun at the expense of faculty members, at the heart of the event is a good cause. This year the money raised from the raffle is benefitting the Philadelphia Education Fund’s Donald McKinney Center for STEM Education (philaedfund.org/programs/advancing-education/mckinney-center), which was formerly known as STEM Initiatives. The revamping of STEM Initiatives is in honor of Donald McKinney, who was a chemistry teacher and founder of the Philadelphia Education Fund’s Math and Science Coalition. In keeping with his legacy of improving Philadelphia’s public education system, the McKinney Center seeks to provide K-12 students with strong educational programs in the math and sciences. To achieve this goal, educators are provided access to STEM professional development opportunities and resources, which should ultimately strengthen their STEM curriculum. Furthermore, the McKinney Center’s Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem establishes collaborations between schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and government agencies that aim to increase accessibility to quality STEM education. By increasing the standard of education and the number of STEM opportunities students are exposed to, the McKinney Center envisions that “all Philadelphia students will graduate from high school with strong [STEM] knowledge and skills [that will enable] them to succeed in a 21st century workforce and society.”

First-time participants Baur and Prosser were eager to get involved with “Pie a PI.” When asked why he volunteered to have pie thrown in his face, Baur reflected that “it seemed like a nice opportunity to help raise money for a good cause.” Prosser shared similar sentiments, and also noted that his participation in the event boosted lab morale. He remarked, “[We] PIs can sometimes be tough on our trainees. I imagine that it was a bit of healthy catharsis for my own trainees to see me take a pie in the face. I could sense this in their anticipatory smiles and devious grins throughout the day prior to my pie-ing.” The only complaints Baur and Prosser had were that the pies were not as real or delicious as they had anticipated, though it is unclear if their requests for blueberry and pecan pie, respectively, will be met in future years.

Whether you support “Pie a PI” for its contribution to STEM education or its humbling of PIs, the CAMB Student Newsletter team would like to extend a thanks to all the donors, faculty, and volunteers that participated in the event. As a result of your support, we were able to continue to make this event a great success and raise money for the Donald McKinney Center for STEM Education.

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