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Friday Q&A: Darlene Cavalier, the Science Cheerleader, on the700Level

It never seems fair when brains and beauty are so adeptly synchronized.

It never seems fair when brains and beauty are so adeptly synchronized.

Yet, there is Darlene Cavalier, a former 76ers cheerleader, leading a science literacy movement, right from her Society Hill rowhome, while managing a beautiful family stuffed with four young kids.

Today, as a partnership with, the best damn sports blog in all of Philadelphia, our Friday Q&A is running on their site. Click over now to read what Cavalier has planned for her Science Cheerleader site and who won her poker game with Michael Jordan.

Below, some goodies from our interview with Cavalier that didn’t squeeze into the700level piece, including what synthetic biology has to do with NFL franchises.

Interview edited for length and clarity. Read the rest on

What team had the dancers you hated the most?

“Now, now… My first year with the 76ers was the first year they had cheerleaders. We were the new kids on the block, and we didn’t have preconceived opinions of other teams’ cheerleaders.”

Below, see one of the 18 Brain Makeover videos that Science Cheerleader recently launched. At the time of writing, in just a month, it’s nearing 10,000 views on YouTube.


Wow us with your insight. Give us a Philly sports prediction and enlighten us about something cool in the science world.

“Well, less of a prediction than an observation. Notice the uncanny similarities between these two maps? A map of Synthetic Biology Research Labs, [and a] map of NFL teams. I know what you’re thinking. Why are the synthetic biology research labs clustered around all the NFL teams? The emerging field of synthetic biology — which we all should learn about so we can help shape related policies and be educated consumers — will design and engineer biologically based parts, devices and systems. Will we see a bunch of McNabb-Manning-Warner mutants tearing up the fields in the years to come? I’m just sayin’.”

…A sports prediction: Put it all on the Eagles, of course.”

How is Science Cheerleader going to make money?

“In the fall, Science Cheerleader, much of the Web site will match volunteers with professional researchers, and there are partnerships there.

It’s a great demographic, and we plan to sell equipment for those volunteers, like gear, like telescopes and all the materials someone would need to then get involved with these really exciting research projects… That could be part of our stand-alone site, which will partner people and things like affiliate programing and licensing out our original content.”

What’s the sexiest part of science?

“A democratized science is sexy. And, of course, knowledge is power. Just ask all those geeks who got the girls.”

Why should science and science policy become more of a priority?

“Lots of reasons. STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — dominate every aspect of our lives. They’re responsible for half the growth in the U.S. economy. Americans fund half the basic research here in the U.S., through our tax dollars, and critical decisions are made everyday about topics that impact our lives and the lives of our children. We must be involved in these decisions, but they often require a basic level of science literacy.”

For example, it’s pretty challenging to weigh in on stem cell research policy if one does not know what a stem cell is. How can we participate fully in the democratic process without being somewhat informed on key science and technology issues? It still bugs me that so few adult-science literacy initiatives exist and even fewer opportunities for us to participate in key policy discussions and yet we’re expected to pay for much of the research and support-related policies.”

We try to make it fun and easy for people to become science literate on, and we’re working on a national plan to create a mechanism for folks to learn about important issues and share insights with researchers and policy makers in Congress. Stay tuned.”

More of this interview can be seen on


Cavalier was also the focus of a report from CW Philly‘s digital journalist Nicole Brewer this week, including a video we can’t embed.
Every Friday, Technically Philly brings an interview with a leader or innovator in Philadelphia’s technology community. See others here.

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