Anna Voelker Wins 2018 President's Prize!

December 13, 2017
Anna Voelker 2018 President's Prize Winner

Anna Voelker was recently selected as one of two winners of the 2018 President’s Prize, the highest university recognition bestowed on exceptional students committed to making our world a better place through ambitious, transformational ideas and actions. Anna is a science communication and accessibility major--a program she designed herself. Her award-winning vision is to create more accessible science through an elaborate plan she calls AstroAccess. It’s a multi-faceted approach to communicate astronomy and science to those with disabilities. The plan involves research, forming connections, developing materials, and culminates with a first-of-its-kind international conference.

“I am over-the-moon excited to be a recipient of the President’s Prize,” Anna said in an OSU News interview. “My overarching goal for this project is to make science more accessible for people with disabilities through astronomy and other scientific outreach initiatives. People who are part of marginalized groups deserve equal access to science and all of the mind-blowing discoveries that it has to offer. They deserve to know that there is a need for them in science.”

Anna Voelker holds up one of the ‘tactile globes’ she produced so that blind and low-vision visitors to COSI can feel the shapes of the constellations as they are described during the planetarium show.

As part of a Disability Studies Internship last Spring, Anna created a planetarium show that was accessible to blind and deaf audience members through the use of captions and 3-D models of the constellations at the COSI museum in Columbus. 

“Her accessible planetarium show at COSI was a huge hit and led to exciting conversations between the COSI staff and our team at Ohio State about creating accessible science programming in the community,” said Margaret Price, associate professor in Ohio State’s Department of English and Director of the Disability Studies Program. She helped Anna develop the COSI presentation and will serve as a mentor for the AstroAccess project.

During the show, the program explained to attendees how to use the tactile globes. The voice-over was also captioned so that deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees could follow along.


Each President's Prize winner will receive a $50,000 living stipend and up to $50,000 in startup funding. In addition to financial support, President’s Prize recipients receive access to faculty mentors and other experts, as well as opportunities to explore project ideas with Ohio State alumni, friends and partners around the world.


Read more about Anna and her work on the OSU Features Page.