Research Communications

Science Cafés offer winter roster of research topics 

Coffee talk attracts strong university, community attendance

ATHENS, Ohio (Jan. 22, 2010) — Ohio University’s Science Café series has returned this winter with a new roster of faculty talks on topics that include neuropsychology, the effects of red algae on the environment and the reconstruction of the Earth’s geographic past.

The next event, to be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27, in Baker University Center’s Front Room, will feature Julie Suhr, professor of psychology. Her talk, “Measuring Your Mind,” will focus on the discipline of neuropsychology and the ways in which neuropsychologists examine behaviors associated with brain function and dysfunction.

“It’s my hope that the Science Cafés will lead students to explore how they can get involved in research and gain ‘hands on’ experience in their discipline, or even discover an interest in a discipline they may not have considered studying before,” Suhr said.  

Suhr will offer a “hands on” approach to the café by incorporating a plastinated human brain into her discussion, as well as demonstrating several instruments designed to measure brain functioning.

The winter Science Café series, which kicked off with a talk by astrophysicist Doug Clowe on Jan. 13, also will feature:

Feb. 10:  Morgan Vis, environmental and plant biology, "Red Algae-Tree of Life, Huh?"
Feb. 24:  Damian Nance, geological sciences, "From Grains of Sand to Supercontinents:  Reconstructing Earth's Geographic Past"
March 10:  Jeff Rack, chemistry and biochemistry, "Chemical Chameleons"

All talks will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Baker University Center’s Front Room. Coffee coupons for the first 50 people at each talk and food will be provided.

Sigma Xi, the national honor society of research scientists and engineers, was the first society to develop science cafés. These informal discussions are designed to appeal to faculty, staff, students and community members who don’t necessarily have a background in science.

Sarah Wyatt, an associate professor of environmental and plant biology who organized the series at Ohio University, reports that attendance has grown from 50 to 125 people since the program launched in fall 2009. The diverse audience—which has included students, staff and faculty from different disciplines, as well as local community members—has generated interesting and engaging discussions, she said.

 “The atmosphere is great! The cadre has put together a fantastic set of speakers, which allows the university to showcase its research while bringing people together,” Wyatt said. “Personally, I really like the mix of attendees and topics. I would definitely like to see that continue.”

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.

By Bridget Peterlin

Contacts: Sarah Wyatt, (740) 593-1133,; Director of Research Communications Andrea Gibson, (740) 597-2166,