Even after years of running the series, I’m still always energized by the launch of a new Research Unplugged season. But last week I was even more delighted than usual. Last year, my colleagues and I hatched the idea of inviting an undergraduate student to give one of our six talks each semester. With the help of Nichola Gutgold, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in Schreyer Honors College, we developed a list of potential student speakers.
There’s no lack of outstanding undergraduate researchers at Penn State; in fact, just the opposite. The number of exciting undergraduate research and service projects made it hard to imagine choosing. But one young woman stood out as the top choice for our Spring season. Though only a freshman, Neha Gupta has already captured the admiration and affection of not only Penn Staters, but of the entire world, for the humanitarian work that led to her winning the International Children’s Peace Prize last November.
Residents of The Village at Penn State enjoy a variety of activities—after all, variety is the spice of life. Sometimes that spice is literally the tongue-tingling kind, as it was during last week’s Research Unplugged event on site at The Village, with a talk by John Hayes and Nadia Byrnes titled “Some Like it Hot!” (Yes, we are indeed keeping John, assistant professor of food science, and Nadia, who works in his lab at the Sensory Evaluation Center, hopping this semester with a variety of public engagement talks for Research Communications. Our thanks to them both!)
Research Unplugged ended its fall series on a literal and metaphorical high note on Thursday with a presentation and performance by Anthony Leach and the Essence of Joy chorus.
Tony Leach, professor of music and music education, is the group’s founding director. To watch him conduct the student singers is to watch a master in action. They are attuned to every nuance of his directions through his voice, his gestures, even the most subtle body language, and the respect and affection they feel for him as a mentor is palpable to all who observe them working together.
This week’s Research Unplugged tackled American college traditions, always a popular topic in these parts! Our speaker? Acclaimed folklorist Simon Bronner, Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Folklore at Penn State Harrisburg, and Director of their Doctoral Program in American Studies.
We’re feeling a bit like proud parents around here lately. Research Unplugged—the Penn State speaker series that took its original inspiration from Europe’s vibrant Cafe Scientifique scene—turned nine years old this fall! With last season’s decision to partner with (and hold events at) Schlow Center Region Library, a weekly turnout of 75 to 100 area residents of all ages, and vibrant Q&A sessions on topics across the disciplines, Unplugged is not only surviving but thriving!