How CASN started

Once Upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri, December 8, 2001 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Although the first official meeting of the Charlotte Area Science Network was not until January 31, 2002, our organization had its beginning when the Charlotte Chapter of Sigma Xi wanted to invite Dr. Bassam Shakhashiri to speak at UNC Charlotte. However, Dr. Shakhashiri, (Link to a nationally recognized advocate for science in the community, wanted to do more than just a single presentation at the university. If he was coming, he also wanted to reach out to the larger community. No single organization in Charlotte was capable of sponsoring his visit. This soon turned into a project for the science community, and Dr. Shakhashiri’s visit on December 8-9, 2001 was planned.

Dr. Shakhashiri had a busy two days in Charlotte. In addition to speaking to the University Honors Program at UNC Charlotte, he performed his signature chemistry show, Once Upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri, at Discovery Place, free to the general public. He also took his message that “science is fun” to appearances on local radio, led a workshop for local science teachers and did science activities with children at a local community center. He encouraged others to become what he called “Science Champions”.

To make this happen took a lot of work by the event sponsors.

The Charlotte Chapter of Sigma Xi

Arts & Sciences Council

The Duke Energy Foundation

Discovery Place, Inc.

American Chemical Society, Carolina-Piedmont Section

UNC Charlotte – Knight Professorship, Chemistry Department, University Honors Program, and the Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education.


We can’t let this stop! What’s next?

The team, that organized Dr. Shakhashiri’s visit, realized how much more our individual organizations could accomplish when we worked together. The idea for the Charlotte Area Science Network was created.

Hillary Davidson, a member of Sigma Xi become the first president of CASN and began spearheading a drive within the local Sigma Xi chapter to find new members for the network. Discovery Place agreed to serve as the host site for the new organization, and new partners joined.  CASN became incorporated and a 501(c)(3) organization in 2002.

At first, CASN was a loose network of members who shared their planned activities and ideas with the rest of the group. Other CASN members would share ideas and resources to make events happen. During this time, CASN co-sponsored or supported special speakers coming to Charlotte such as Jean Michael Cousteau and Jane Goodall among others. We joined with the Charlotte Repertory Theater to present a science-themed play, Copenhagen. We also supported local science competitions and continue to provide funding for the top participants in our Regional Science Fair to attend the International Science Fair.



With growth, in 2004-2005, came the need to reorganize our operating structure and focus our network around three task groups:

Support the Schools

Educate the Public

Build the Network

As CASN continues to grow, our organization keeps evolving to better fit the needs of its members in the present. But no matter how CASN changes over time, we still try to hold true to our first statement of who we are, written in 2002:

“The Charlotte Area Science Network is a collaboration of leaders in the science community working together to foster community, education and industry partnerships to promote science for life in the Charlotte area”.

We still strive to be Science Champions.