GSC Hosts Another Nerd Nite!

On June 6, 2013 by Elizabeth Molina-Markham

On Thursday, May 16th, the outgoing academic chair of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), Rich Lopez, hosted Nerd Nite, an event that again proved to be a great opportunity for graduate students to practice public speaking. Since its launch in 2012, Nerd Nite has been helpful in developing students’ skills talking to a general audience. The event was held at One Wheelock in Collis, and there were four presenters from different departments.

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Anna Hatch (biochemistry) explains the cell’s basic structure before diving deep into mitochondria biology.

Daniel Durcan (Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, MALS), the first student to present, discussed the complexities and outcomes of the Arab Spring, focusing mostly on Egypt and Tunisia. “The striking paradox is in both Tunisia and Egypt, that even though the revolutions were driven by social groups associated with the left, the political right consolidated the gains of the revolutions,” observes Durcan.

Next to present was Anna Hatch (biochemistry). Hatch’s work targets the cell’s main energy producer, the mitochondrion. She discussed how one cytoskeletal protein, INF2, helps regulate mitochondrial dynamics. “Mitochondria are very dynamic organelles, which continually undergo fission and fusion. Patients with certain neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s, have compromised mitochondrial dynamics—really underscoring the importance of determining INF2’s role during the fission process,” says Hatch.

Deviating somewhat from the typical format of Nerd Nite, Max Mehlman (psychological and brain sciences, PBS) decided to research a random topic and present on it, rather than focusing on his own research. He chose to discuss the game of hide and seek. Everyone was amazed by the variety of types of hide and seek and the different rules Mehlman described, as well as the history of the game; hide and seek-like games were played during the House of Tudor and even in Ancient Greece. Mehlman’s unique take on Nerd Nite fit well into the event and captured the audience’s interest.

Daniel Durcan (MALS) draws the "pillars" of the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and explains how the public has power.

Daniel Durcan (MALS) draws the “pillars” of the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia and explains how the public has power.

Finally, Everett Sullivan (mathematics) presented last. This is the second time this year that Sullivan has shared his science at Nerd Nite. Sullivan explained how Game of Life, a program designed to have infinite patterns, helps answer mathematical questions. “In fact, any computational question solvable by a Turing machine could be solved using Game of Life!” says Sullivan. Game of Life is a program in which a window has cells designated as dead (lightly colored). Once you click on a cell, it becomes alive (dark). A dead cell can automatically become alive if there are three alive cells next to it. After you select a certain pattern, you can activate the window and see the results of your computation. Sullivan’s demonstration showed the audience not only how cool mathematical simulations can be, but also how pretty they can look when seen through the Game of Life program.

All four presenters did a great job and got people very interested in their work. There is no question that Nerd Nite is indeed helping graduate students learn about what goes on outside their area of research. The newly elected academic chair of the GSC, Laurie Laker, plans to continue the tradition, promising, “I will, most definitely, work hard to ensure that Nerd Nite will persist next academic year as well.”

Follow the Dartmouth GSC on Facebook and check out the events calendar on the new GSC website to know when the GSC is hosting other similar events!

by Gilbert Rahme

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