Portland Science Nights engages Ducks who flew north

Portland skyline
Portland skyline

University of Oregon students gain critical thinking skills in a stimulating environment during their years in school, and they typically maintain the impetus to educate themselves after they graduate.

To address that lifelong learning desire, the UO Alumni Association has started a series of academic lectures to engage and inspire those who’ve shed their caps and gowns and settled in Portland.

Portland Science Nights” kicks off in June and includes lectures by UO faculty members doing cutting-edge research. The lecture series continues in August and November.

The alumni association enjoys showcasing the UO’s academic excellence to its alumni base, and this series aims to do that with diverse topics and a casual setting.

“UO alumni have a desire to learn about the world and expand their minds,” said Tim Clevenger, executive director of the association. “It’s a perfect way for alumni to come together, learn something new and connect with other Ducks.”

Tom Connelly, director of the research division at the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History, will present “The Sandals that Changed the World: How Ancient Fibers Tell the Story of our Ancestors” at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26, at Widmer Brothers Brewing, 929 N. Russell St., Portland. A social hour for alumni to mingle begins at 6 p.m.

Connelly will engage the audience in a discussion about ancient fiber artifacts and how understanding the technologies and geography of those artifacts relates to everything else we know about Native cultural history in the west.

Connelly has done extensive archaeological field research in the northern U.S. plains, Scotland and the Pacific Northwest. His research interests include hunter-gatherer-fisher societies and incipient agriculture, stone tools, geoarchaeology, cultural resource management, and fiber artifacts and basketry.

Later in the summer, Jim Brau, Philip H. Knight Professor of Natural Science, will present “The Higgs Boson: How It was Discovered and What It Tells Us About the Universe,” at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21. Location will be announced. A social hour for alumni to mingle begins at 6 p.m.

Brau will engage the audience in a discussion about the Higgs boson, including the search for and discovery of this elusive particle. He will explain why its discovery was expected and how it relates to the origin of the universe.

Brau serves as director of the UO Center for High Energy Physics and leads the UO team doing research with the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. He is also a leader in the global effort to develop and construct the next large high-energy physics collider – the International Linear Collider.

In the fall, Greg Retallack, professor of Geological Sciences, will discuss “Why Did the Fish Leave the Water?” at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20. Location will be announced. His discussion covers the environments that created the perfect conditions for the evolutionary transition between fish and amphibians, and how humans got here from the oceans.

While studying at the University of New England in New South Wales, Retallack discovered that unusual rock layers were actually ancient soils. The buried and lithified soils are evidence of ancient environments on land, including the habitats of human evolution and landscapes of the evolutionary transition from fish to amphibian.

The lectures are $5 per session for UOAA members, or $10 for all three, and $15 per session for non-UOAA members, or $40 for all three. Participants can register online or by calling 1-800-245-ALUM.

- by Aria Seligmann, Office of Strategic Communications