GSC Academic Chair Hosts Last Nerd Nite of the School Year

On May 21, 2014 by Grad Forum

Anna Prescott, the outgoing academic chair of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), hosted her fourth and final Nerd Nite event this year on May 8. Thirty-five students attended and listened to six speakers share their interests.

Yipeng Shi and Spencer Hatch

Yipeng Shi and Spencer Hatch discussed the complexities of humor.

Emily Stephens, a PhD student in the Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine (PEMM), gave a light-hearted talk entitled: “Smallness: A Perspective.” In her talk, Stephens showed several pictures of animals, people, and things all classified as small (comparably). Stephens also described how smallness can be advantageous in different situations.

Shahrzad Haddadan, a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Computer Science, was second to speak. Haddadan discussed how political situations in Iran have historically affected Iranian women. She gave a short history of Iran, including the war between Iran and Iraq and more recent events. Haddadan described the influence of different politicians on issues involving women’s rights in Iran, and noted how women leaders in the country have played a role in seeking freedom and rights for women.

Spencer Hatch, the outgoing vice president for the GSC, and fellow graduate student, Yipeng Shi, spoke next and discussed “some thoughts on the nature of humor.” Both Hatch and Shi are PhD students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. They discussed how jokes can be interpreted differently depending on cultural context and on how the joke is presented. Hatch and Shi shared several examples of jokes from different humor websites. They then discussed the different elements that go into finding a joke funny and how different cultures have extremely different perspectives on humor.

Next to speak was Rich Lopez, the former GSC academic chair. Lopez gave a talk entitled: “A Sampling of Improbably Probable Phenomena, n=2.” Lopez discussed the statistical possibility of finding two audience members with the same birthday. To everyone’s surprise, the chance of finding two audience members with the same birthday is roughly 90 percent given an audience about the size that attended Nerd Nite. Indeed, there were two members with the same birthday present!

Lastly, Carlos Dominguez, graduate student in the Digital Musics Program, shared a technique for music-making called “no-input mixing.” No-input mixing is a technique that causes a mixer to produce sounds without an external sound source. Dominguez explained the function of a mixer, a device that modifies music input and sends an audio signal to an output, and demonstrated the technique. Audience members were curious about the range of sounds exhibited by the instrument as well as the items needed to reproduce the effect on their own.

The presenters did a fantastic job sharing their passions with the audience. The Graduate Forum commends Prescott on a successful year as academic chair and as an advocate for Nerd Nite events. We look forward to attending the next Nerd Nite event in the fall!

by Gilbert Rahme

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