Alumnus Josh Linn demonstrates the "Boiling hot, boiling cold" experiment at the Saint Louis Science Center, where he is senior educator of Center Stage. The liquid nitrogen, so cold that it boils, vaporizes dramatically when it comes in contact with boiling hot water. He conducts and explains experiments like these on live TV for KSDK (Channel 5) and KTVI (Fox2) science segments. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Alumnus Josh Linn demonstrates the “Boiling hot, boiling cold” experiment at the Saint Louis Science Center, where he is senior educator of Center Stage. The liquid nitrogen, so cold that it boils, vaporizes dramatically when it comes in contact with boiling hot water. He conducts and explains experiments like these on live TV for KSDK (Channel 5) and KTVI (Channel 2) science segments. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Josh Linn may look familiar in his quirky lab coat and goggles. He’s the Saint Louis Science Center guy popping up on local TV stations for science experiment segments. He’s also a University of Missouri–St. Louis alumnus with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a physics minor.

Linn’s done everything from blowing up pumpkins on KSDK’s “Show Me St. Louis” to lighting a dollar bill on fire without burning it (almost) on KTVI’s “9AM show.”

Linn earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics with a physics minor from UMSL in 2011.

Linn earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a physics minor from UMSL in 2011.

“Anytime there is liquid nitrogen, fire or electricity, I’m a huge fan,” he said. “I made acetylene gas inside a pre-carved pumpkin, and then Heidi [Glaus] and I lit it to blow out the face. Pumpkin guts went everywhere, all over both hosts. It was awesome! It made for great TV.”

The live experiments are an extension of Linn’s duties as senior educator of Center Stage at the Saint Louis Science Center, where he demonstrates educational experiments to spark children’s interest in the sciences.

“I love it when you have 100 people in the audience, and they all go ‘WHOA’ or when a kid goes, ‘That’s amazing,'” Linn said. “I get to see the light-bulb moments when they’re like, ‘I get it!’ And that’s why I come to work every day.”

It’s a job he may not have stumbled upon if he hadn’t been a student in the Pierre Laclede Honors College at UMSL. All honors college students needed an internship to graduate, so Linn chose what most excited him from the list – physical science intern at the Science Center. His primary job was to conduct shows on their stage.

“I absolutely loved it,” he said. “I made my own show that we still use today called ‘Stormy Weather.’ It’s got my favorites – fire, liquid nitrogen and electricity – which make it popular and give us tons of stuff to do. It’s also packaged very well together.”

For Linn, the internship drew on his strengths as a scientist, but it also unveiled his talent as a showman.

“It wasn’t until I started working at the Science Center that I realized I enjoy being in front of people,” Linn said.

The Science Center’s media team picked up on that, too, which is how he came to be their go-to guy for the Science Center’s monthly segments with KSDK.

Nearing graduation, Linn said his internship “took the stereotypical career path” and turned into a part-time job at the Science Center, which then became a full-time job when a position opened. He’s now been with the organization for six years.

And while Linn has plenty of natural talent for what he does, he also attributes some of his success to the time he spent at UMSL.

Linn pours liquid nitrogen on to the floor, demonstrating its instant vaporization when it comes in contact with objects and/or surfaces warmer than itself, which is most everything. (Liquid nitrogen has an extremely low boiling point at -321 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Linn pours liquid nitrogen onto the floor, demonstrating its instant vaporization when it comes in contact with objects and surfaces warmer than itself, which is most everything. (Liquid nitrogen has an extremely low boiling point at -321 degrees Fahrenheit.)

“The honors college really encourages higher-level thinking,” he said. “I’ve found that the discussion-based setting and ‘no tests, more writing’ policy pushed me and my beliefs and thought processes.”

The honors college was also what made Linn choose to stay at UMSL all four years of his degree. Originally he had planned to transfer to a school specializing in meteorology, but the honors college community and challenging curriculum quickly changed his mind.

Linn sees his campus involvement experience as a former UMSL Residence Hall Association president at play in his career success as well.

“Being president of RHA was probably one of the biggest skill-building parts of my college career,” he said. “It taught me how to deal with stress, how to manage my time and how to be a leader. Now that I’m at the Science Center and taking on a leadership position, I’m drawing on those experiences.”

Linn said that the pressure of pulling off experiments on live TV is certainly nerve-wracking, but he’s also had great experiences with local hosts, especially when he recalls the “potato clock” experiment on the “9AM show.”

“So the potato serves as the power source for the clock,” he said. “I tested it four times before the camera went on, and it worked every time. As soon as we were live, it just would not light up. Tim Ezell [the host at the time] was so good about the whole thing. He made the joke on him. It ended up that the diodes got switched somehow. I made it up to him later by bringing one of our more explosive experiments that I knew would work.”

Linn isn’t going anywhere anytime soon either.

“The Saint Louis Science Center combines everything for me – the education element I like, letting me do science, passing the love of science on to others, letting me get in front of people and be crazy. It’s great. I love it.”

Keep an eye out for Linn on KSDK (Channel 5) and KTVI (Channel 2), and browse the segments below to see him in action.

KSDK:
Why bubbles float
Helium and vocal chords
Smashing flowers with liquid nitrogen

KTVI:
Turning flames blue
Electric cars, building an electric motor
Killer ball challenge
The UMSL Experience

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