Another Successful “Nerd Nite” Hosted by the GSC

On November 18, 2013 by Grad Forum
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Roy Williams presents during Nerd Nite.

On Tuesday, November 12, Lisa Jackson, the president of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), hosted Nerd Nite. Since it began in 2012, Nerd Nite has provided an opportunity for graduate students to develop public speaking skills. While the Graduate Studies Office organizes events that help train students to present their research to a general audience in a short amount of time, Nerd Nite provides the opportunity to present anything graduate students are interested in to their peers. Five different presenters gave very interesting, out-of-the-box talks at One Wheelock in the Collis Center.

Anna Prescott (psychology and brain sciences), the newly elected academic chair of the GSC, opened the event by discussing the different types of swing dance, something Prescott does as a hobby while pursuing her neuroscience research. From the 1920s Charleston, to Lindy Hop swing dancing, Prescott described it all. She even showed videos of the different dance styles.

Next to present was Tyler Walton (Master of Arts in Liberal Studies). Walton discussed what he learned from J. R. R. Tolkien, best known for his books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Walton discussed the many different languages that Tolkien used in his writings. “Words are mystical. That there could even be an organization of sounds and syllables to signify a thing is astounding and fills me with awe,” said Walton.

Everett Sullivan (mathematics) presented next. Sullivan explained the concept of “infinity” and how mathematics helps to define infinity. Sullivan explained that infinity could mean different things depending on how we look at it. “In set theory, sets and elements together with logic can be used to create the groundwork for most of mathematics,” explained Sullivan.

Roy Williams (molecular and cellular biology) gave a very interesting talk about the “No Hormones in Our Milk” controversy. As a retired dairy farmer with a lot of interest and experience in computational biology, Williams discussed how historically, scientific evidence supported that hormones in cow milk could affect human consumers. However, he said that because science is always changing, what we know today “may not be true tomorrow… we change our interpretations based on novel data and new technologies.” Today, there is no evidence that hormones in cow milk can affect people, yet many consumers will buy only milk that is labeled ‘hormone free’ or ‘Bovine somatotrophin (BST) free.’” Williams mentioned that this is a problem, and he believes that this is a result of communication failure between scientists, the government, and the general public.

Spencer Hatch (physics and astronomy), the current vice president of the GSC, then described his expertise in sourdough starter. Hatch gave his secret recipe for making delicious bread. Surprisingly, the recipe consisted simply of water, flour, and a bit of salt. Hatch argues that it is all about the yeast culture that one starts with. Yeast are small organisms that help bread rise and give it its taste, texture, and color. Hatch grows yeast over the course of two weeks and keeps on culturing them in a small jar until he needs to make bread.

After the talks, the audience voted for the traditional “Nerd of the Nite,” and Tyler Walton was proclaimed the most nerdy! He won a Dirt Cowboy $10 gift certificate and a mug with the Graduate Studies logo on it.

The founder of Nerd Nite and previous academic chair of the GSC, Richard Lopez, said, “I am so glad to see this tradition continue!” Indeed, the graduate student community is very happy with the events organized by the GSC. Follow the Dartmouth GSC on Facebook and check out the calendar on the GSC website to know when the next event will be.

by Gilbert Rahme

photo by Julia Bradley-Cook

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