2015 Commencement Speaker

William Sanford Nye

Bill Nye, the Science Guy

Honorary Science Degree Recipient 

Rutgers takes great pleasure in welcoming William Sanford Nye as the 249th Anniversary Commencement Speaker.

Bill Nye, who has been called “one of the country’s best-known and most-accessible explainers of science,” is a scientist, engineer, comedian, author, inventor, and former Emmy-winning TV host. He is on a mission to foster a scientifically literate society and to help people appreciate the science that makes our world—and the universe—work. 

As a boy, Nye was captivated by nature and looked at everything through a plastic magnifying glass. While tutoring fellow students in high school math, he discovered an early talent for making complex matters simple. Earning a mechanical engineering degree from Cornell University in 1977, he then became an engineer for Boeing in Seattle, where he developed a hydraulic resonance suppressor that is still being used on 747s. 

After winning a Steve Martin look-alike contest, Nye began doing stand-up comedy after hours. In 1986, he quit his engineering job to write and perform on a Seattle comedy sketch TV program, Almost Live! It was there that, to fill time when a guest canceled, he performed a humor-filled piece about the household uses of liquid nitrogen; thus was born his lab coat-and-bow tie “Bill Nye the Science Guy” persona. From 1993 to 1998, he starred in Bill Nye the Science Guy, a half-hour show coproduced by Disney Educational Productions and carried by PBS Kids that taught scientific concepts through funny and action-packed demonstrations. The show won 18 Emmy Awards, and he himself won seven for writing, performing, and producing.

Nye has written several children’s books about science, including Big Blast of Science, Bill Nye’s Consider the Following, and Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Great Big Book of Tiny Germs. He also wrote and produced a DVD series about algebra, Solving for X, aimed at encouraging more children, especially girls, to pursue careers in math and science.

In 2014, as an outgrowth of a public debate he had with a creationist, Nye published his first book for a general audience: Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, which he describes as a primer on the discoveries and principles of evolution. He is working on a second general-audience book on energy and climate change.

Nye is dedicated to involving citizens around the world in the advancement of space science and exploration. He is currently chief executive officer of the Planetary Society, an organization cofounded by his former Cornell professor Carl Sagan. Nye was a member of the team that designed MarsDial, sundials mounted on the robotic rovers exploring Mars. 

As further evidence of Nye’s fertile mind, his patented inventions include an improved ballet toe shoe, a device to help people learn how to throw a baseball better, a magnifier made of water, and a digital abacus.

Nye is committed to green practices and to reducing his carbon footprint. Among many eco-friendly features of his home, he has 4,000 watts of solar power and a low-water-use garden with an underground watering system. A bicycle enthusiast, he commutes by bike in both Los Angeles and New York.

Nye is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which investigates extraordinary and controversial claims from a scientific viewpoint. In 2010, the American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year.

Through all his work, Nye hopes to inspire people to understand and change the world.