The longtime champion for scientific literacy is also now partnering with School of Public Health on COVID-19 research
Via an online event held on Friday, August 14, 2020, Indiana University awarded IU Alumnus Jamie Hyneman the Bicentennial Medal. Dean David B. Allison of IU's School of Public Health-Bloomington nominated Hyneman and presented the award which is intended to honor distinguished and distinctive service.
"Those receiving the Bicentennial Medal are seen as models for future students, for faculty, for alumni, and for organizations to emulate, as IU enters its third century," Allison remarked, echoing the words of IU President Michael McRobbie, the progenitor of the Bicentennial Medals. The Bicentennial Medals may be future-facing, but, created with reclaimed materials from the old Student Building's bells, they're also firmly rooted in the university's past.
"[Bicentennial Medal winners] have enlarged the footprint of IU or helped to put IU on the map in unique ways," Allison continued. "This medal indicates IU's enthusiasm and respect for [Hyneman] as an alumnus and as a human being who is doing great work to help make the world a better place."
After studying Russian languages and linguistics, Hyneman graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1981. Over the course of his career, he worked in varied positions, including as a linguist, boat captain, wilderness survival expert, and animal wrangler, among others. He eventually found his niche in the special-effects industry. In 2003, Hyneman began co-hosting the Discovery Channel's "MythBusters" program which simultaneously entertained viewers and helped to increase scientific literacy.
"We weren't trained scientists," Hyneman noted. "We just tried to do the best we could. . . . We were methodical and careful about what we did. We were diligent about investigating these situations, and, lo and behold, we came to understand that that's all science actually is. It's people doing a good job at trying to understand things."
Hyneman's "MythBusters" experience left him with "a profound interest" in the sciences, and, as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, he wanted to help engineer improved PPE for healthcare workers. To that end, Hyneman began partnering with the School of Public Health.
"I got to know Jamie and talked about his involvement in science," Allison explained. "In the context of those discussions, Jamie started saying, 'I want to help. I want to be part of the solution for COVID-19.' We are just so excited to have somebody who is part of our alumni, is part of our family, is an advisor to me, who wants to make these contributions to the world."