Dr. Kate Biberdorf

Professor, Department of Chemistry at UT Austin

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At the University of Texas, Dr. Kate Biberdorf is breaking stereotypes and blowing stuff up—all in a good pair of heels. Through her theatrical and hands-on approach to teaching, Dr. Biberdorf is breaking down the image of the stereotypical scientist, while reaching students that might otherwise be intimidated by science. Students’ emotional responses, rather than rote memorization of facts, is key to Biberdorf ’s dynamic approach to her program, as well as science in general. Her exciting and engaging program leaves audiences with a positive, memorable impression of science – all while diminishing the stigma around women in science.

About Dr. Kate Biberdorf

Dr. Biberdorf is currently employed as both a Professor and the Director of Demonstrations and Outreach for The University of Texas at Austin. She serves as a general chemistry instructor and is particularly known for developing explosive demonstrations that excite undergraduate chemistry students. Outside of the classroom, she is often found at with her outreach program “Fun with Chemistry” and her live, explosive, science spectacular, “The Puking Pumpkin Tour.”

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Biberdorf developed a love of experimenting at an early age. Her mother encouraged her interest in science and provided her very own bathroom where she could experiment to her hearts content. At 15, she decided to become a chemist while taking a class with an instructor whose enthusiasm and love for blowing things up proved contagious.

Dr. Biberdorf earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and German from the University of Michigan in May 2008. Shortly thereafter, she relocated to Austin, Texas to attend The University of Texas at Austin for graduate school. She graduated in May 2014 with a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry.

Looking back on her career, she points to obstacles facing many women in STEM fields today. Many of her peers in graduate school were dismissive upon first glance. She’s had to fight to be heard and taken seriously, even while pursuing her Ph.D. For Dr. Biberdorf, this stigma simply reflects the many hurdles women in the sciences have to deal with, and that she hopes to challenge. Just as she was mentored by her high school chemistry teacher, Biberdorf’s mission is to inspire a new generation of scientists whose contributions will be valued on merit, regardless of the sex or race of the scientist.

Dr. Biberdorf’s mission of the Fun with Chemistry outreach program is to ignite, inspire, and motivate K-12 students to develop a love for learning and exploration in the sciences. She targets students that are intimidated by science and utilizes hands-on demonstrations to foster a determination to pursue a science-related degree at the collegiate level. These objectives are accomplished by the development of new compelling experiments to prove that chemistry is relevant, fun, and entertaining.

Dr. Biberdorf ’s repertoire of on stage experiments includes combustion, environmental science and ooey gooey. (Hint: There’s slime involved) The shows often end with her yelling, “Do you like science?!” to an full auditorium, after which she dumps a vat of hot water into a bucket of liquid nitrogen, creating the epic “thunder cloud” that lingers in the room.

She is also a featured member of “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.” Founded by artist Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves.

Her ultimate dream is to headline an explosive science show in Vegas.

Speech Topics

  • Fun with Chemistry
  • Blowing Up Stereotypes: How to Encourage Girls in STEM

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