Research Communications

“Science cafés” demystify current issues in science, medicine and engineering 

Sept. 24, 2009

To increase undergraduate student interest in research, Ohio University scientist Sarah Wyatt has launched a new series of “science cafés” this fall that will spotlight faculty studies on topics ranging from alternative energy and dinosaurs to social anxiety.

Wyatt, an associate professor of environmental and plant biology and vice president of Ohio's chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, started the project to get more students talking about science. Though some may think that only graduate students can get involved in research, Wyatt hopes to raise awareness of the benefits of undergraduate engagement in independent research, scholarship and creative activity.


“Ohio University has a strong history of undergraduate research,” Wyatt said.  “It is important for us to increase awareness on campus of what types of research are going on and how undergraduates can get involved.”

Sigma Xi, the national honor society of research scientists and engineers, was the first society to develop science cafés.  According to the society, science cafés are “live events that involve a face-to-face conversation with a scientist about current science topics.” These informal discussions are designed to appeal to faculty, staff, students and community members who don’t necessarily have a background in science.

A slate of faculty speakers from Ohio University will offer interactive talks on a variety of current science issues.
Gerri Botte, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, will host this year’s first science café on September 30.  She will talk about alternative energy and the search for new types of fuel. Additional speakers will include Larry Witmer, professor of biomedical sciences, (“Fleshing Out Dinosaur Evolution”), on October 14, and Justin Weeks, assistant professor of psychology, (“Social Anxiety: The Fear of Positive Evaluation”), on October 28.

Ohio University’s science cafés will take place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Baker Center’s Front Room. Coffee coupons and food will be provided. The series is co-sponsored by the Ohio University chapter of Sigma Xi and the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards.  It is funded through a competitive grant from Ohio University’s 1804 Fund.

Additional information about science cafés can be found at Sigma Xi’s national web site,

By Bridget Peterlin

For more information, contact Sarah Wyatt at 740.593.1133 or