Ben Austin

Class of

Back when I graduated in 1985, STS was called VTSS (kids, ask your parents!) and VTSS wasn't even a major yet, merely a "program."  But it was certainly my intellectual home at Stanford and I would never have correctly resolved my education without the help of Barry Katz, Ray Clayton, Jim Adams, Robert McGinn, Ted Good, and Virginia Mann, among others.  Also my fellow students and TAs, all of us together trying to figure out where we fit in to all of this.  Thanks to all. 

Technically I left Stanford with a BS in Chemistry and a BA in Public Policy, with Honors in VTSS.  It took me a few years thereafter to realize I didn't want to go into laboratory science.  Fortunately, everyone I knew in Palo Alto in 1988 seemed to be starting a software company and it was a great time to relive "The Soul of a Machine," (one of my VTSS reading selections) in technicolor.  Music Software allowed me to support myself for a decade or two and learn how to do marketing for startups. 

Finally, now, I can roll it all into one, my work life and academic passions. And I couldn't be a happier STS grad! 

I run a small but dynamic group solving problems at the interface of science, business, communications, STEM education, and marketing.  

Ben Austin & Associates is a New York Marketing Consultancy that helps for-profits and not-for-profits with their marketing challenges, especially in areas relating to science, technology, and society.  Two major clients are the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's Public Understanding Program and Space Racers, a children's TV show on NBC focusing on space science.  

The Sloan Foundation is one of the nation's largest funders of pure scientific research and the public understanding group funds television, film, radio, podcasting, and books that feature science or scientists at their heart.  We started this year with a pre-release debut of the film Hidden Figures at the Castro in San Francisco, where we hosted the film's Director, star Octavia Spencer, and invited a number of Bay Area non-profits focusing on bringing women and people of color into mathematics and engineering.   

Last week, we produced the World Premiere of "BOMBSHELL: the Hedy Lamarr Story," at the Tribeca Film Festival.  The film, Executive Produced by Susan Sarandon, with narration by Diane Kruger, and funded in large part by the Sloan Foundation, recalls the life of Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian Jewish refugee who became one of the great stars of early Hollywood and was often called "the most beautiful woman to appear on film." Yet all the time, Hedy had to subvert her passion as an engineer and inventor.  She received a US Patent for what has become known as "spread spectrum" technology, but died while living as a recluse on Social Security.  That patent now has a market value of $30B and is used in most all cell phones, Wifi Routers, and GPS.   

Sloan also funds American Experience and Science Goes to the Movies on TV, RadioLab and NPR Science Friday on Radio, numerous books on science, and has a robust student film program as well. 

Space Racers is a children's TV show on the Sprout Network (to be rebranded as "NBCUniversal Children's Network") that teaches preschoolers about space science, through the cadets of the Stardust Space Academy.  This year,  we will be building Space Racers into a toy company as well.  

Besides Sloan and Space Racers, my group does the marketing for several other non-profits and educational institutions.  Mostly, though, I get to market wonderfully cool STS projects and dance in between C.P. Snow's two cultures for fun and profit. It's been a delight.